N605bn recovered through whistleblower policy

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-N605bn recovered through whistleblower policy

YBTC News-Zainab Ahmed, former minister of finance, says the federal government has recovered N605 billion through the implementation of the whistleblower policy. Ahmed made this known during a briefing on the ministry’s activities in Abuja, recently. The whistleblower policy is an anti-corruption programme that was launched in December 2016. It encourages individuals to report cases of financial mismanagement or stolen funds.

Finance-Minister-Zainab-Ahmed

As of the end of 2018, government had recovered over N540 billion. The finance minister described the whistleblower policy as a huge success, adding that the programme was ongoing. “The whistleblower policy of government subsists and it is still being implemented. The total amount of collection that has been made through various efforts in the whistleblower policy is about N605 billion,” she said. “This is an improvement over the last amount that was reported.”

Recalled that, the Federal Government recently announced a policy, which offers a five percent financial reward to any whistle blower whose information leads to recovery ‎of looted funds and other monies obtained through fraudulent means. Tagged ‘Whistle Blowing Programme,’ it is aimed at encouraging anyone with information about a violation, misconduct or improper activity that impacts negatively on the Nigerian people and government to report it. Official reward for whistle blowers will strengthen the fight against corruption by encouraging more Nigerians to identify with government’s efforts in that regard.

The country would have recovered substantial part of the looted funds if similar policy were adopted in effort to recover the Abacha loot running into billions of dollars. Briefing State House correspondents after a meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari , former Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun said if a whistle blowing leads to a voluntary return of stolen or concealed public funds or assets, the blower may be entitled to between 2.5 per cent (minimum) and 5.0 per cent (maximum) of the total amount recovered. Adeosun who was joined at the briefing by the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola and the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, explained that to qualify for the reward, the whistle blower must have provided the government with information it does not already have and could not otherwise obtain from any other source available to the government.

She further explained that the government had already created a secure online ‎portal where information could be submitted, as well as the facility to check the status of the report on the portal. Adeosun categorized the information that could be ‎reported to include cases bothering on mismanagement or misappropriation of public funds and assets such as properties and vehicles, financial malpractice or fraud, and collecting or soliciting bribe. Others are corruption, diversion of revenues, fraudulent and unapproved ‎payments, splitting of contracts, and procurement fraud including kickbacks and over invoicing, among others. The policy, however, does not apply to personal matters concerning private contracts or agreements. While assuring of absolute confidentiality on the use of the portal, ‎Mrs. Adeosun said that government employees, agencies, institutional stakeholders and members of the public were also at liberty to avail themselves of the facility.“You can submit documentary evidence on the portal. You can also provide specific and fact-based information such as what occurred, amount involved, who was involved and dates of the occurrence on the portal.“Confidentiality will be maintained to the fullest extent within the limitations of the law. If you choose not to disclose your identity, there will be no record of who you are. If you choose to disclose your identity, it will be fully protected.”If you whistle-blow in public-spirit and in good faith, you will be protected. If you feel that you have been treated badly because of your report, you can file a formal complaint. If you have suffered harassment, intimidation or victimization for sharing your concerns, restitution will be made for any loss suffered.”

The Nigerian Institute of Management has expressed its support for the five per cent reward promised by the Federal Government to anyone who exposes fraud and other related crimes in the public and private sectors. The former Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, had, after the Federal Executive Council meeting recently, announced a resolution that the whistle-blowers would be rewarded with five per cent of the total amount recovered as a result of the tip-off. Speaking after its Annual General Meeting and end-of-year dinner in Calabar, Cross River State, the Chairman of NIM, Calabar chapter, Mr. Evong Evong, described the decision as a right initiative. He said the plan would go a long way to help in the fight against corruption.

Evong added, “Anything that will help reduce, mitigate and eventually eradicate corruption at all levels is a welcome development as long as it is within the ambit of the law and doesn’t infringe on the rights of the people.“Our tenets include professionalism, integrity and transparency and we believe in prudent management of funds. So, if the Federal Government has made a policy to encourage more whistle-blowers, it would make a lot of people to sit up and a lot of people will also come forward since they know they have a lot to benefit from it.” Evong expressed the hope that the ongoing recession would soon be a thing of the past, adding that a lot of professionals were already proffering solutions at various levels to assist the government. He said, “It would take creativity and thinking outside the box. We have the human resources to help us out because Nigeria has a lot of resources that can compete anywhere in the world. So, the economic recession will soon be a thing of the past once we can block all loopholes and manage our funds prudently. “The institute has already keyed into the Federal Government’s change initiative, which, of course, is a paradigm shift. It must not be seen as if it is a witch-hunt. “We must look at the bright side of the fight against corruption and this policy of rewarding whistle-blowers, as initiated by the Federal Ministry of Finance, is indeed a step forward in the right direction and a win-win for Nigeria.”

It is important to note that, simply put; whistle blowing is the reporting of misconduct of an employee or superior. Misconduct of course, can range from between minor issues, to complex, corporate-changing deeds of bad behavior / leadership. Prime examples of how important whistle blowing can be for an organization are the past scandals of Enron, WorldCom, and the Bernie Madoff scandal of 2008. Every organization desires honesty from and among its employees. The presence of honesty allows for complete dedication to the organization’s mission and success. By encouraging a whistle blowing culture, the organization promotes transparent structure and effective, clear communication. More importantly, whistle blowing can protect the organization’s clients. For example, if a hospital employs a number of negligent staff members, other, more ethically inclined, employees would need to bring such issues to the hospital’s attention, protecting the organization from possible lawsuits or severe mishaps resulting in a patient’s demise.

As with most matters, there are positives and negatives. Whistle blowing, too, has some negative aspects. For instance, in a 1972 case, an arbitrator told a whistle-blowing employee that the employee could not, “Bite the hand that feeds you and insist on staying on the banquet.” If the entire organization does not have the same positive attitude in regards to whistle blowing, employees may fear speaking up.

A second consideration includes employees taking advantage of whistle blowing. Forbes.com cites an example of Douglas Durand. As vice president of sales at TAP Pharmaceutical Products, Durand suspected the company was conspiring with doctors in overcharging Medicare. Instead of gathering evidence and blowing the whistle, Durand spent 7 months gathering information, quit, and then filed a lawsuit against TAP. Durand spent the next 8 years in cooperation with the government in order to build the case. Durand received $126 million in the case settlement. Trouble surfaced after the settlement, when prosecutors filed criminal fraud charges against TAP executives. Durand’s story fell apart as defense attorneys poked holes in his claims. Durand’s example shows the ugly side of whistle blowing resulting from greed.

Although these two negative aspects of whistle blowing can be quiet unsettling, both can be curbed. By promoting a whistle blowing culture within the organization, employees will feel comfortable speaking up when necessary. Here are some tips for promoting a whistle blowing culture:

•Create and publicize a whistle blowing policy.

•Emphasize communications about bans on retaliation for whistle blowing activities.

•Top Management must demonstrate the inclusion of whistle blowing in the culture.

•The organization’s commitment to whistle blowing must be emphasized and promoted.

•Follow through with a complete investigation after a whistle blowing event.

•Discuss with employees their personal thoughts on topics to make sure everyone has a similar mindset.

Clear communication is key to building an organization where employees feel comfortable raising their concerns. In the resulting positive work environment, organization goals are foremost, allowing employees to focus on the success of the organization and its members. Whistle blowing is an essential tool for an organization. Without it, fraud, misconduct, and failure may dominate an organization. By promoting clear communication and keeping the organization’s goals in focus for everyone, one can minimize their chances of being the next Enron.

The importance of whistleblowing in the drive for a corruption-free society is underscored by the fact that the institutional mechanisms put in place to check corruption may not be effective without whistleblowing, especially from insiders who identify and draw attention to corrupt acts that other mechanisms may fail to pick up. Corruption has remained a major challenge to development in most developing countries. An analysis of the Corruption Perception Index (CPI), a measure of perceived level of public sector corruption in countries and territories around the world, indicates that Nigeria, for example, consistently occupied appalling positions in the list of most corrupt countries in the world between 2001 and 2012. One cannot but question the effectiveness, efficiency, and relevance of the Nigeria anti-corruption agencies such as Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices and Related Offences Commission (ICPC), and Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), if one analyzes the country’s ranking on the CPI and the number of corruption cases effectively prosecuted by the anti-corruption agencies. These agencies focus more on the legal framework to fighting corruption; believing that when corrupt individuals are prosecuted and convicted, it would deter others from engaging in corruption.

There has been a substantial increase in the recognition of the importance of whistleblowing as a means of reducing corruption and defusing dangerous situations by improving the disclosure of information about illegal, dangerous or unethical activities by government and private organizations. Whistleblowing can also be a means of improving the internal organizational culture of organizations in both the public and private sector to prevent or reveal mistakes and accidents and improve internal management and efficiency. Around the world, whistleblowers have been hailed as heroes for revealing corruption and fraud in organizations and for preventing potentially harmful mistakes from leading to disasters. The disclosures range from revealing the theft of millions of money in the public and private businesses and other dangerous transactions that threaten businesses and help save wealth. However, many who bring these issues to light face severe repercussions for their actions. They lose their jobs or are ostracized for their actions. Some are charged with crimes for violating laws or employment agreements. In extreme cases, they face physical danger. Countries around the world are now working to develop legal regimes to encourage these important disclosures and protect whistleblowers from retribution.

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