UCHENNA INYA reports on the partnership between the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and Ebonyi State Government on the anti-corruption war
When he took over the mantle of leadership in 2015 as the chief executive of Ebonyi State, Governor Dave Umahi declared zero tolerance to corruption and immediately constituted the Fiscal Responsibility Board charged with the responsibility of fighting corruption in the state.
After constituting the board, Umahi went into probe of projects handled by the immediate past administration by directing the contractors to join the state in joint measurement of the projects to ascertain their conditions and costs. Some of the contractors complied, while others refused.
Lots of fraud were allegedly uncovered during the joint measurement of the projects as the projects’ cost were highly inflated with some of them already done failing even as others were at their various stages of completion.
Umahi continued the war against corruption in the state by extending it to the local government system. A committee was set up to investigate the local government areas under the former caretaker committee chairmen. The committee, while submitting its report to the state government said N1.7 billion was allegedly misappropriated by the former caretaker committee chairmen and coordinators of development centres.
It is not clear whether the former committee chairmen and coordinators of the development centres’ have refunded the amount, but their probe may have reduced or stopped fraud in the local government administration in the state as well as Ministries, Department and Agencies(MDAs).
The state government’s zero tolerance to corruption attracted the attention of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), which launched the campaign against corruption in the state recently.
At the occasion, which attracted stakeholders from government, non governmental organisations (NGOs) and the private sector, the ICPC Chairman, Mr. Ekpo Nta, commended Ebonyi State government for its transparency and openness in governance and urged other states to emulate the state.
He acknowledged that he received several petitions against the state government and that the commission discovered that all the issues raised in the petitions were false.
His words: “I have monitored projects awarded by the Ebonyi State government. At every point of the project inspection, I always demand for the cost so that we can do cost evaluation and each of the commissioners in the state, who accompanied me to the inspection made the costs of the projects available to me. In other places, they will not do this and the whole essence is transparency, which we should begin to put in place. This is because, citizens have the right to know what their money is used for.”
The ICPC noted that good governance cannot be achieved in an atmosphere of systemic corruption, non-existence or weak regulatory systems, inefficient and corrupt officials and poorly executed physical infrastructure. “Corruption thrives where all these processes are prevalent and corrupt persons seize these opportunities,” he said.
Ekpo said that prevention of corruption from being committed holds the key to good governance arising from sound fiscal management and efficient/effective government operation, which translate to good life for all citizens.
“ICPC relies heavily on promoting anti-corruption through robust prevention strategies. The United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNAC) strongly recommends that most of our strategies be channeled into prevention processes. This is the practice adopted by countries that have successfully reduced corrupt processes.
“If the citizens buy into this, they will protect their God-given wealth and will blow the whistle immediately rather than wait for juicy news of injurious leakages and stealing of public funds. Doing the right thing is cheaper but less dramatic, yet we seek to promote this in our private lives but cannot or refuse to transfer it to our public affairs. Thereafter, anti-corruption agencies can now concentrate heavily on eradicating the few corrupt persons, who refuse to change due to sickening greed and impunity,”, he added.
He disclosed that a National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS) 2017-2021 has been approved by the Federal Executive Council for implementation and guidance at federal, state and local government levels to strengthen the fight against corruption.
According to Nta, NACS seeks to identify and close the existing gaps in the corruption practice, institutionalise results-based system and structures, provide/encourage appropriate incentives for increasing and sustaining citizens’ participation in the fight against corruption.
The ICPC boss explained that the state will be able to measure the success of its anti-corruption strategy by using the following indicators; affordable and good quality products from factories and farms, excellent opportunities and facilities in the health and education sectors, high percentage of persons gainfully employed by public and private sectors or self-employed, good and affordable intra and inter-state transportation, fair recruitment processes, protection of pension rights of senior citizens, responsive well motivated civil services among others.
The Provost of the Anti-Corruption Academy of Nigeria, Sola Akinrinade, in a remark, said the major purpose of the summit was to sensitize critical stakeholders in the state to become viable partners in the war against corruption.
He congratulated the state government and people of the state for convening the summit. According to him, it is a demonstration of the commitment of the government to enhancing integrity, probity and accountability into the processes of government of the day.
He said: “The need to enhance prevention as a strategy for tackling corruption has never been more urgent, given the developmental challenges confronting our nation in the face of dwindling resources. The law has never stopped those who would, from sinning; the challenge for us is to prevent it from happening. When we consider the devastating consequences of corrupt behavior on the part of those who are entrusted with our common-wealth; when we reflect on what could have been achieved if pilfered resources are applied to the purposes for which they are meant, then, we are likely to appreciate more initiatives such as this summit.
“The war against corruption must be fought at every level if we are to achieve lasting and sustainable results. It is not a war that should be left to the Federal Government alone, it is through initiatives such as this that we will succeed in creating values to thrive in the governance and administration of this country,” he said.
Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Hon. Francis Nwifuru, who was represented by leader of the House, Hon. Joseph Nwaobasi, said the summit will strengthen the fight against corruption and called for more of it. He added that the Assembly will continue to partner with the state government in the fight against corruption.
Responding, Governor Umahi commended the ICPC over its approach in the fight against corruption in the country. He said suspects of corruption should not be tried in the media to ensure maturity in the war against corruption.
The governor condemned selective probe of corruption suspects, adding that it has created tension and confusion in the country.
Umahi used the occasion to hand over some contractors, who were awarded projects by the past administration in the state to the anti-graft agency for allegedly inflating cost of the projects and also breaching the contracts.
Calling on the ICPC to probe them, he said that some of the contractors were overpaid by N1.8 million. Though he noted that corruption cannot be completely eradicated, but called for transparency and accountability by public office holders.