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Finance

Graft: FG Gets 5,000 Tips From Whistle-blowers

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The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, on Tuesday said that the Federal Government had received a total of 5,000 tips from Nigerians through the whistle-blower policy.

She said this in Abuja during a presentation on ‘The whistle-blower policy and its implication for public servants’, which was delivered at a seminar organised by the Bureau of Public Service Reforms.

The whistle-blower policy, which was launched in December 2016, is aimed at addressing the issue of corruption in the management of government’s resources.

The finance minister explained that out of the 5,000 reports received from Nigerians, about 365 were actionable, adding that this had resulted in the recovery of huge sums of money by the government.

Adeosun, who did not provide details of the amount recovered when asked to do so, noted that out of the 365 actionable tips received by the government under the policy, more than 50 per cent of them came from civil servants.

As of June this year, the ministry said that the sum of N11.63bn had been recovered under the whistle-blower policy with about N375.8m paid to 20 informants under the policy.

She explained that the actionable tips dwelt on corrupt practices such as contract inflation, ghost workers, illegal recruitments, misappropriation of funds, illegal sale of government assets, diversion of revenues, and violation of Treasury Single Account regulations.

Adeosun said during the review of the information received, it was observed that certain types of tips kept recurring.

For instance, she said that 144 or 39 per cent of the 365 actionable tips related to  misappropriation and diversion of funds; 60 complaints, representing 16 per cent, related to ghost workers, illegal recruitments and embezzlement of funds meant for personnel emolument; and 56 tips or 15 per cent related to violation of the TSA regulations.

She added that 49 actionable tips or 13 per cent had to do with contract inflation/violation of the Procurement Act and failure to carry out projects for which funds were released, while 34 tips or nine per cent related to non-remittance of pension and National Health Insurance Scheme deductions.

She said, “Overall, the volume of tips received has been greater and of higher quality than expected when the programme was first adopted. We continue to receive information everyday with total communication reaching above 5,000 in July through our various reporting channels.

“There is, however, a long way to go and we must do more. Part of our work is to analyse trends and take corrective actions. For example, many of the salary, tax and pension under remittance cases shared a common thread.

“Several cases where institutions were found to have insufficient funds to meet their obligations often had illegal recruitments, which bloated the wage bill, and agencies responded by part-paying or short-paying salaries, while applying to the FG for salary shortfall payments. We are revising our procedures for approval of recruitment, which will improve our budgeting and control.

“Equally in many cases where revenue has been diverted to accounts outside the TSA, we have reviewed our reconciliation and receipting processes. So, the information being provided is useful in driving process improvements.

“If as a civil servant, you have information about a possible misconduct or violation that has occurred, is ongoing, or is about to occur, we implore you to come forward and report it. All information you provide will be reviewed, analysed and referred to be treated either administratively or criminally, through the investigative agencies.”

The minister added, “If for any reason after you have made a disclosure, you feel that you are being treated badly because of your report, you can file a formal complaint through the same confidential channels and the matter will be dealt with immediately with the seriousness it deserves. Also, where you have suffered harassment, intimidation or victimisation for sharing your concerns, the whistle-blower policy makes provisions for restitution of any loss suffered.

“The risk of corruption is significantly heightened where the reporting of wrongdoing is not supported or where those who report wrongdoing may be subject to retaliation, such as intimidation, harassment, transfer, dismissal or violence by their fellow colleagues or superiors.”

Adeosun said the protection of public sector whistle-blowers from retaliation for reporting in good faith was integral to the government’s efforts to combat corruption, safeguard integrity, and enhance accountability.

She said the whistle-blower policy was consistent with the practice in many other countries such as Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States that had passed comprehensive and dedicated legislation to protect whistle-blowers and particularly, public sector whistle-blowers.

She said the reward scheme had also acted as an incentive for disclosures as a whistle-blower was entitled to between 2.5 per cent and five per cent of the amount recovered if the information provided was original and directly led to the recovery of stolen or concealed funds or assets.

The minister said over N325m had been paid to those who provided genuine information that led to the recovery of funds under the first batch, adding that claims for the second batch were being processed.

She said, “So far, we have paid over N325m and that is the first batch under the whistle-blower policy.

“Even in the payment process, we have built in protection to ensure that whistle-blowers identity remains confidential and that bank and other details cannot be used to trace information providers.”

When asked why the Federal Government had not published the names of people from whom the money was recovered, she said, “In many cases, what led to the recovery of the money was a criminal act and one has to be charged to court under the criminal justice system and it is wrong for us to publish their names until they have actually been charged with those offences.

“But I’m sure that as time goes on, you will start to hear about cases being charged to court.”

On the issue of illegal recruitment, the minister said that the government had warned agencies against carrying out recruitment without all the necessary approvals, adding that the development was responsible for the many cases of ghost workers.

She said, “What we’ve found is that many agencies have gone ahead to recruit illegally. In some cases, somebody may retire and then you will recruit 10 people and so the salary size initially stays the same and then you promote; and then suddenly that agency can’t pay salaries and they start reporting salary shortfall. This does not comply with our guidelines on recruitment.

“We are going to be very strict on agencies as this is where the ghost workers are come in because those employed do not have job specifications and this government is very determined to stamp that out. So, there would be some measures to be rolled out to address that.”

…approves new policy guidelines for contract execution

The Federal Government has approved new policy guidelines for the execution of contracts requiring science, engineering and technology components.

The Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, disclosed this at the First Science, Technology and Innovation Sensitisation Forum and Open House in Abuja on Tuesday.

The new policy is aimed at ensuring infusion of local content in the design and procurement of science, engineering and technology projects by government’s ministries, department and agencies.

Onu said, “I am happy to inform you that the Federal Executive Council has approved new revolutionary policy guidelines for the design and execution of programmes, projects and contracts with science, engineering and technology components.

“This is the first of its kind in our dear country. Its implementation will strengthen and deepen the role of science, technology and innovation in the future development goals of Nigeria. It will help create a new nation that guarantees that Nigerians will be prosperous and happy and that will be strong, wealthy and respected by other nations.”

The minister added, “We have conceptualised the novel National Strategy for Competitiveness in raw materials and products development in Nigeria, which is aimed at addressing the challenge of developing and implementing effective policies and strategies that will stimulate economic diversification and promote industrialisation in an irreversible manner.

“This is informed by the fact that any economy that is not diversified and dependent on the import of raw materials will find it difficult to confront the challenges of the growing shifts in global production and trade patterns.

“It is, therefore, our intention to deploy this strategy so as to help Nigeria conserve her scarce foreign exchange and stimulate global competiveness that is derived from a diversified economy. This will help the development of a domestic capacity in such a way that our country will reduce her dependence on imports as a measure to help insulate our economy from external shocks.”

Onu said Nigeria must begin to prepare for the post-petroleum economy so that it would be able to absorb the shock and avoid the recession that hit the country following the recent significant drop in oil prices.

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

Banking Sector

Peter Obaseki Retires as Chief Operating Officer of FCMB Group Plc

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The Board of Directors of FCMB Group Plc has announced the retirement of Mr. Peter Obaseki, the Chief Operating Officer of the financial institution, with effect from March 1, 2021. He was also an Executive Director of the Group.

His retirement was approved at a meeting of the Board of the Group on February 26, 2021. This has also been announced in a statement to the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) by the financial institution.

The Chairman of FCMB Group Plc’s Board of Directors, Mr Oladipupo Jadesimi, thanked Mr. Obaseki for his valuable service and excellent support to the Board for many years.

FCMB Group Plc is a holding company divided along three business Groups; Commercial and Retail Banking (First City Monument Bank Limited, Credit Direct Limited, FCMB (UK) Limited and FCMB Microfinance Bank Limited); Investment Banking (FCMB Capital Markets Limited and CSL Stockbrokers Limited); as well as Asset & Wealth Management (FCMB Pensions Limited, FCMB Asset Management Limited and FCMB Trustees Limited).

The Group and its subsidiaries are leaders in their respective segments with strong fundamentals.

For more information about FCMB Group Plc, please visit www.fcmbgroup.com.

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Banking Sector

COVID-19: CBN Extends Loan Repayment by Another One Year

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Central Bank Extends One-Year Moratorium by 12 Months

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has extended the repayment of its discounted interest rate on intervention facility by another one-year following the expiration of the first 12 months moratorium approved on March 1, 2020.

The apex bank stated in a circular titled ‘Re: Regulatory forbearance for the restructuring of credit facilities of other financial institutions impacted by COVID-19’ and released on Wednesday to all financial institutions.

In the circular signed by Kelvin Amugo, the Director, Financial Policy and Regulation Department, CBN, the apex bank said the role-over of the moratorium on the facilities would be considered on a case by case basis.

The circular read, “The Central Bank of Nigeria reduced the interest rates on the CBN intervention facilities from nine per cent to five per cent per annum for one year effective March 1, 2020, as part of measures to mitigate the negative impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the Nigerian economy.

“Credit facilities, availed through participating banks and OFIs, were also granted a one-year moratorium on all principal payments with effect from March 1, 2020.

“Following the expiration of the above timelines, the CBN hereby approves as follows:

“The extension by another 12 months to February 28, 2022 of the discounted interest rate for the CBN intervention facilities.

“The role-over of the moratorium on the above facilities shall be considered on a case by case basis.”

It would be recalled that the apex bank reduced the interest rate on its intervention facility from nine percent to five percent and approved a 12-month moratorium in March 2020 to ease the negative impact of COVID-19 on businesses.

To further deepen economic recovery and stimulate growth, the apex bank has extended the one year-moratorium until February 28, 2022.

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Finance

MTN Nigeria Generates N1.35 Trillion in Revenue in 2020

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MTN Nigeria Grows Revenue by 15.1 Percent from N1.169 Trillion in 2019 to N1.35 Trillion in 2020

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and challenging business environment, MTN Nigeria realised N1.346 trillion in revenue in the financial year ended December 31, 2020.

The leading telecommunications giant grew revenue by 15.1 percent from N1.169 trillion posted in the same period of 2019.

Operating profit surprisingly jumped by 8.5 percent from N393.225 billion in 2019 to N426.713 billion in 2020.

This, the telecom giant attributed to the surge in finance costs due to increased borrowings from N413 billion in 2019 to N521 billion in 2020.

MTN Nigeria further stated that the increase in finance costs was the reason for the decline in growth of profit before tax to 2.6 percent.

MTN Nigeria grew profit before tax by 2.6 percent to N298.874 billion, up from N291.277 billion filed in the corresponding period of 2019.

The company posted N205.214 billion profit for the year, a 0.9 percent increase from N203.283 billion recorded in the 2019 financial year.

Share capital remained unchanged at N407 million. While Total equity increased by 22.3 percent from N145.857 billion in 2019 to N178.386 billion in 2020.

MTN Nigeria’s market price per share increased by 61.8 percent from N105 to N169.90.

While market capitalisation as at year-end also expanded by 61.8 percent to N3.458 trillion, up from N2.137 trillion.

The number of shares issued and fully paid as at year-end stood at 20.354 million.

MTN Nigeria margins were affected by Naira devaluations and capital expenditure due to the new 4G network coverage roll-out.

Margins were adversely affected by the effect of naira devaluation and expenses associated with new sites’ roll-out to boost 4G network coverage in FY’20.

“On the former, we note that MTNN expanded the scope of its service agreement with IHS Holding Limited and changed the reference rate for converting USD tower expenses to NAFEX (vs CBN’s official rate previously). Thus, over the full-year period, the company’s operating margin contracted by 1.9 ppts YoY to 31.7%,” CardinalStone stated in its latest report.

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