By G9ija

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP)  has urged the federal government  to impose stringent sanctions on the Chief Executive  Officers (CEOs) of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) implicated in corruption cases within their organisations.

SERAP said such CEOs of the MDAs should be prosecuted without further delay in accordance with international fair trial standards.

The recommendation is part of its new report titled “Above the Law: How Ministries, Departments and Agencies Are Getting Away With Corruption in Nigeria” presented in Lagos by the Executive Director of Paradigm Leadership Support Initiative, Mr. Olusegun Elemo.

The report was the outcome of  an in depth investigation and analysis of the 2017 Auditor-General for the Federation’s report.

It identified the MDAs as one area where corruption persists.

“Since 2013, the Auditor General of the federation has produced reports which shows massive reports of corruption  in MDAs.”

The 40 page document revealed that the MDAs misappropriated funds running into trillions of Naira which were not retired or remitted into federation account in violation of financial regulations and the constitution.

Such financial abuses include “payment for goods or services not yet supplied, contract award without due process, irregular payments bordering on non presentation of payment vouchers, non remittance of revenue generated, incurring expenditure without approval,  over payments in expenditure, violation of e-payment policy, failure to collect taxes from companies and government agencies, non execution of projects unrecovered staff loan, granting of cash advance above approved limit and diversion of funds among others.

SERAP in the report urged government to establish an independent commission of inquiry with subpoena power to conduct a transparent,and impartial investigation into systematic corruption within MDAs as well as withholding financial releases from such.

It said: “Nigerian government must also ensure that MDAs declare their assets publicly and also push for an audit bill that would ensure independence, integrity and autonomy of the office of the Auditor- general of the Federal.”

SERAP advised the National Assembly to be proactive in the fight against corruption within MDAs by urgently holding a public hearing on reports of corruption identified in the Auditor-General reports since 2013 as well as passing the Proceeds of Crime Bill, the Whistle- blowers Bill and the Witness Protection Bill among others.

“ Subject MDAs to greater legislative oversight by requiring them to submit quarterly expenditure reports, “ the report says.

“The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) must also investigate , arrest  and prosecute MDAs according to international fair trial standards.

“Also, the National Assembly should be more proactive in launching and following criminal investigations into reports of corruption in MDAs and must explain publicly the reasons for not prosecuting high level officials of MDAs for perpetuating large-scale corruption within their ministries, department and agencies.

SERAP  urged the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to establish a special Taskforce in collaboration with the Civil Society to thoroughly and effectively investigate allegations of systemic corruption within MDAs, and make public the findings of any such investigation, as well as work with the office of the Attorney General of the Federation and anti- corruption agencies to ensure effective implementation of the report’s recommendations.

The organization also admonished the NHRC  to advocate for sanctions and prosecution of anyone involved in corruption within MDA.