The federal government yesterday revealed that the aggregate number of instances of fraud and unlawful transactions by serving or previous government officers is currently investigating its whistleblowing policy has increased to 2,251 reports.
This affirmed a current THISDAY exclusive story that more Nigerians, generally bankers and account officers, have begun to exploit the government’s whistleblowing strategy to report the wrongdoings of previous and current open office holders suspected to have stolen public funds and stashed them in a few Nigerian banks.
A breakdown of this, according to data made available by the Ministry of Finance showed that while 95 of such cases were reported using the whistleblowing website; 1,550 through a dedicated telephone line for the policy; 194 through e-mails sent by the whistleblowers; and 412 through text messages.
Furthermore, it put the number of tips received so far at 282. A breakdown of the manner in which the tips were received also showed that while 49 were through calls; 87 through SMS; 95 through the website that was developed for the initiative; and 51 through e-mails.
In addition, the actionable tips received were put at 154. According to the ministry, some of the tips include information about contract inflation and conversion of government assets to personal use; ghost workers; payment of unapproved funds; embezzlement of salaries of terminated personnel; improper reduction of financial penalties; and diversion of funds meant for distribution to a particular group of people (farmers).
Others include the diversion of funds to personal commercial bank accounts to earn interest; non-remittance of Pension & National Health Insurance Deductions (NHIS) deductions; failure to implement projects for which funds have been provided; embezzlement of funds received from donor agencies; embezzlement of funds meant for payment of personnel emoluments; violation of TSA regulations by keeping funds in commercial banks; violation of FIRS (VAT) regulation by adjusting Value Added Tax payment; and non-procurement of equipment required for aviation safety.
Furthermore, the ministry of finance disclosed that other tips received were centered around money laundering and diversion of funds meant for approved projects; illegal sale of government assets; diversion of revenue (IGR); financial misappropriations (embezzlement); concealed bailout funds; mismanagement of micro-finance banks; illegal recruitments; and violation of procurement Act.
THISDAY had reported that some bankers were being encouraged largely by the reward of between 2.5 per cent (minimum) and five per cent (maximum) of the total amount recovered. It was gathered that several former and current public officers who had allegedly stolen from the treasury either hid the physical cash in safe houses or used shell companies, close aides, associates and family members to stash the ill-gotten funds in bank accounts using the names of the companies or their friends, family members and associates. However, though the accounts are not in the names of the political office holders, they usually operate the accounts themselves, a fact that is well known by the bank account officers who help them to manage the accounts.
As a result, since the federal government unveiled the whistleblowing policy as a means of recovering stolen public sector funds, a number of junior and middle-level bankers have been quietly exposing the true beneficiaries of the accounts in order to cash in on the rewards derivable from the policy.
The federal government last December approved a whistleblowing policy to expose fraud and other related crimes in both the public and the private sectors.
Finance Minister, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, had while urging Nigerians to key into the scheme said the policy devised by her ministry was aimed at encouraging anyone with information about a violation, misconduct or improper activity that impacts negatively on Nigerians and government to report it.