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Making whistle-blowing policy work

Illustration for whistle-blowing

Illustration for whistle-blowing

Making whistle-blowing policy work

A News Analysis by Angela Atabo, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)

Corruption is a worldwide occurrence that cuts across societies, races, gender and social class; it has been identified as the major impediment to good governance.

Curbing the spread of corruption has remained the major challenge of successive administrations in the country, thereby making anti-corruption fight a key item in individual and party campaign manifestos in Nigeria.

As such, diverse legal frameworks and institutions were established in Nigeria to fight corruption such as Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) by former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Nonetheless the powers given to ICPC and EFCC by the law, corruption persists in various sectors, giving room for the formation of more anti-graft policies.

Further to the existing anti-graft policies, President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration introduced whistle-blowing policy which was announced in December 2016.

The overall goal is to roll out an all inclusive citizen-centric anti-corruption war using whistle-blowing policy to x-ray corruption and other wrongdoings with a compensation framework.

However, this policy like other policies has continued to suffer some setbacks.

A document, entitled: “Survey on five years of whistle-blowing policy in Nigeria’’ published by the African Centre for Media and Information Literacy with support from MacArthur Foundation is apt in determining the impact of the operationalisation of the whistle-blowing policy in addressing corrupt practices and wrongdoing.

The document notes “while the whistle-blowing policy has recorded some achievements in the last five years, its impact in curbing corruption and other corrupt practices in Nigeria has remained minimal.

“Brewed by legislative protection, limited funding, insufficient data source on progress made so far, lack of political will, limited knowledge of specific provisions in the policy among many state actors’’, have limited the potency of the policy.

Nevertheless, in spite of these challenges, the importance of whistle-blowing cannot be overemphasised because of its impact on economic recovery, poverty reduction and insecurity bedeviling the country.

The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, once said that the federal government recovered more than N700 billion from its Whistle Blower Policy.

Ahmed said that the government was able to recover the huge amount of money from the activities of whistleblowers which came forward with actionable claims of corruption.

“There were recoveries and the cleaning of the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS); stoppage of non-compliance with the Treasury Single Account (TSA) and violations of the procurement Act 2007,’’ she said.

Ahmed said that at inception, there was widespread enthusiasm as Nigerians desired to fight corruption as they volunteered numerous actionable information or tips to anti-graft agencies for further investigations.

She, however, said that after sometime, interest in the implementation of the policy nosedived and the government was working to revive it while some Nigerians argue that the N700 billion recovered through the policy could fund the budget of two ministries and go a long way to reduce poverty.

In addition, the Chairman of EFCC, Abdulrasheed Bawa, said that the introduction of the whistle-blower policy led to the recovery of 43 million dollars by the federal government.

Bawa said that “corruption remains one of the most pervasive and daunting challenges facing humanity as it deprives national governments of resources needed for sustainable development.

“Corruption facilitates Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs) from developing economies to developed countries thus weakening states’ ability to deliver developmental expectations targeted at women and youths.

“Nigeria, like many other countries, has suffered from the damaging effects of corruption as the country has lost billions of dollars to foreign tax havens, stolen and expatriated by corrupt leaders and their foreign accomplices, including multinational companies’’.

But Mr Ezenwa Nwagwu, the Convener, Say No Campaign, notes that government’s effort is not enough to get the desired result in the fight against corruption in the country, adding that due to the human cost of corruption, it is in the interest of Nigerians to ensure that the fight against corruption succeeds.

“Whistle-blowing ordinarily is intended to prevent or expose corrupt activities of groups or individuals; the concomitant effect of successful whistle-blowing will save public fund or resources and ensure public office is not abused for private gain.

“The fund saved or prevented from being stolen can be deployed to provide social amenities which can help all things being equal in addressing economic development.

“Part of civic education and political mobilisation should include budget literacy, citizens ought to engage national and sub national budgets, government plans to spend money for us and detail this outlay in a proposal’’, he observes.

In his view, Dr Chido Onumah, Coordinator, African Centre for Media and Information Literacy, observes that whistle-blowing is a positive addition to the anti-corruption fight that if utilised properly could curb poverty and other issues of development.

He says the group works to create awareness about the policy because a lot of people do not know about the policy and government does not really pay much attention in terms of creating awareness around it.

“We believe that if the fight against corruption will succeed ultimately, it is a fight Nigerians need to identify with.

“Even though we have a government in place, citizens should also play their role, take responsibility if they see something going wrong, they should take advantage of existing channels to report.

“They need to work collectively to raise their voices when those voices need to be raised to challenge the process and ensure that the right thing is done, this country belongs to all of us.

“Citizens should continue to report, continue to advocate for good governance, accountability and so on because that is the only way we can build a stable successful and prosperous nation,’’ he advises.

Analysts believe that whistle-blowing systems can be more successful if a combination of reporting channels is provided directly to specific trusted persons either through telephone hotline or through an online channel.

They also advise that the authorities should make a point of communicating with whistle-blowers throughout the process of investigation to maintain trust because a failure to be responsive may give rise to a perception that the wrongdoing is being covered up.

In the light of the huge government fund discovered and recovered through the policy, experts believe that the whistle-blowing had been effective in combating corruption in the Nigerian public sector but suggest that more is needed to be done.

They called on the federal government to collaborate with the National Assembly to ensure that the proposed whistle-blowing and whistle-blower protection bill is passed and signed into law. (NANFeatures)