At the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, at the Aso Rock Villa, the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, disclosed that the Federal Government has so far recovered about N9.1bn through its whistleblowing policy introduced to reward informants.
This was even as it said efforts are being made to amend the policy to accommodate instruments that will deal more with prevention, including using mystery shoppers to garner information as it is done in the United Kingdom.
The policy allows the whistle-blowers, who report fraud or theft of public funds, to be given no more than 5 per cent of the the sum recovered from looters through their help. It said institutionalising whistle blowing infrastructure will help put people on their toes.
Kemi Adeosun, gave a breakdown of the recoveries to include N7.8 billion, $368 million, and £27,800. She also informed the council of the number of tips and number of investigations carried out.
“I also reported that the whistleblower team recently come back from a trip to the UK. The UK government was giving us trainings on whistle-blowing and how we should institutionalise it. The team spent some time with the revenue office in UK. They spent some time in Customs office and they took them through what they have been able to do.
“One of the things it has achieved is prevention. When they get the tips, they use it to block avenues for leakage. We have had a significant number of tips. So, we will be coming back to institutionalise whistle-blowing as a structure.
“It has become a central part of fighting corruption, giving us valuable information. Basically, whistle-blowing is here to stay, giving us useful information,” she explained.
Adeosun also disclosed the level of capital releases from 2017 till date, saying, “l gave details of the big four areas and then others.” She said Power, Works and Housing got N301.89 billion; Defence, N151.2 billion; Agriculture N119.9, billion; Transport, N127.9 billion while other areas combined got N545.6 billion.
According to her, the total capital budget release for 2017 so far is N1,248,310 trillion, stressing that it hasn’t closed yet, as government will close the year around where it closed last year, at about N1.3 trillion mark.
The Minister said, “our commitment to infrastructure spending remains very strong because that is what is going to drive growth of the economy. That is what is going to drive jobs.”
On the government’s debt profile, she recalled that FEC had approved a three-year debt strategy to reduce reliance on short time borrowing particularly treasury bills, 91-day treasury bills, that was costing government 21 per cent and moving from domestic borrowing into external borrowing.
According to her, “when we came in, what we were owing was 84 per cent domestic and 16 per cent external borrowing. We have moved to 77:23 as a result of eurobonds that we have done and refinancing of maturing obligations.
“Our terms of maturity was 7.15. We have now extended it to 11.25. That gives a little bit of room to allow the investment we have made in capital projects to filter into our tax system and allows us to manage the debt.
“What that means is reducing our cost of funds and reducing our interest cost because the cost of borrowing is much more less and in a planned manner and our average borrowing has reduced from 18 per cent to about 14 per cent. We are confident that as interest rates begin to ease, we will reduce our cost of borrowing even further.”
The Minister also added that government had been able to save N68 billion on personnel cost in 2017, bringing the aggregate savings on personnel cost since 2007 to N288 billion.