The more successive administrations in the country claim to have tackled and curbed corruption, especially in the public service, the more corruption cases involving public officers are exposed; raising doubts even in the assertions of the present administration that it is winning the fight against corruption.
In its latest ethics and transparency index report released on Monday last week, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) scored the Ministries of Finance, Power and Education low. The report by the ICPC is part of its mandate to deploy the Ethics and Integrity Compliance Scorecard (EICS) in federal government’s ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to assess their compliance to extant ethical, integrity, statutory, policy and regulatory standards and practices.
The assessment is provided for in Section 6(b)-(d) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000 with a view to reinforcing the drive to strengthen probity, accountability and transparency in government. The goal of the EICS deployment in MDAs is to diminish corruption risks, system abuse and revive ethics and integrity benchmarks in government offices.
The tool was deployed between April and July 2022 in 360 MDAs. The index showed that 260 MDAs responded and were rated according to the degree of compliance with the scoring criteria.
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A breakdown of the report shows that 52 agencies scored zero in the ranking, meaning that they did not respond to enquiries on them. They were marked as “High Corruption Risk (HCR)” agencies by the commission. Such agencies were flagged for the attention of the public and for further inquiries and actions.
Prominent among the agencies in this category include the Federal Ministry of Education, the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal, National Judicial Institute, Nigerian Christian Pilgrims Commission, National Bureau of Statistics and the National Pension Commission.
Others include Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board, National Population Commission, Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission, Standards Organisation of Nigeria, National Centre for Disease Control, National Broadcasting Commission, National Hospital, National Examinations Council, Universal Basic Education Commission, and the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria.
It is worrisome that some strategic MDAs including finance, justice, and power ministries, the Fiscal Responsibility Commission, the NDDC and many others that should expectedly earn first-rate grades in ICPC’s EICS failed the compliance test by scoring below the pass-mark of 50. While the Ministry of Power scored 46.15, FCDA got 44.25. The Federal Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs respectively failed with 42.45 and 42.10 per cent respectively.
Further examination of the report also shows that about 15 federal MDAs scored below 30 marks. They include the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources (29.55), and the Bureau of Public Procurement (20.40).
What is more worrying is the abysmal rating respectively earned by the Ministry of Justice (18.95) and the Police Service Commission (15.78). With the National Lottery Trust Fund earning the highest score (86.05) in the entire transparency assessment, the Ministry of Justice should be ashamed of its outing.
Speaking on how the ICPC scored MDAs, spokeswoman for the commission, Mrs Azuka Ogugua, said the anti-graft agency looked at compliance level of MDAs to existing government policies, which according to her, are categorised under three groups; namely management measures and culture, financial management systems and administrative systems. She said MDAs were required to print existing documents to support their compliance in the three broad areas of operations.
If MDAs that are strategic in the fight against corruption such as the justice ministry, the two highest courts, which are the principal enforcers of law as well as protectors of fundamental human rights would fail ICPC’s integrity test so woefully, it is easy to conclude that the attempt by citizens to seek justice at the appellant and the Supreme Courts is simply an exercise in futility; dashing the hope of Nigerians for a just society.
The very poor rating of these courts in the ICPC’s recent transparency index only confirms that some key actors in the war against corruption have rather become a part of the problem than of the solution. This report by the ICPC coming at the tail end of the present administration further seeks to puncture the latter’s much-advertised claim that it has done so much to tame corruption in government.
We advise ICPC to seek explanations from MDAs that scored zero in the exercise. Those without reasons to explain their inactions should be blacklisted, named and shamed stringently, and where applicable, have their allocations in budgetary appropriations withheld until they comply.
While we commend ICPC for its courage in naming and shaming corrupt MDAs, we equally encourage Servicom units of all MDAs and other anti-graft agencies to take after ICPC in blowing the whistle against MDAs that fail to comply with extant rules guiding various operational systems and procedures in the public service. We insist, however, that such ethics and integrity tests must also be carried out in Nigeria’s many anti-corruption agencies themselves, after all, they are also government agencies.
Secondly, it is most preferred that such indices are designed and implemented by non-governmental agencies or research centres, rather than anti-graft agencies that are also government departments like any other. But overall, the report is a positive step towards winning the fight against corruption in Nigeria.