The Federal Executive Council on Wednesday approved the Ministry of Finance Whistleblowing Programme.
This means financial reward awaits anyone who give useful information on stolen or concealed funds. They get to smile to the bank with between 2.5%-5% of the funds when recovered.
During a briefing with State House Correspondents, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun; and the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, briefed State House correspondents explained to journalists the essence of the programme. Mrs Kemi Adeosun said it is designed to encourage anyone with information about a violation, misconduct or improper activity that impacted negatively on Nigerians and government, to report such.
In her words: “If there is a voluntary return of stolen or concealed public funds or assets on the account of the information provided, the whistleblower may be entitled to anywhere between 2.5 per cent (minimum) and 5.0 per cent (maximum) of the total amount recovered. You must have provided the government with information it does not already have and could not otherwise obtain from any other publicly available source to the government.
She also revealed that the programme would serve as a stop-gap till a bill on the same matter, presently before the National Assembly, was passed into law. She further explained that there would be a secure online portal where the information could be submitted. After submitting such information, the whistleblower could also check the status of his report on the portal.
The information that could be submitted, according to the minister, are mismanagement or misappropriation of public funds and assets, including properties and vehicles; financial malpractice or fraud; collecting/soliciting bribes; and corruption, diversion of revenues; fraudulent and unapproved payments; splitting of contracts; and procurement fraud that included kickbacks and over-invoicing among others.
The Finance Minister however, warned that under the programme, personal matters, concerning private contracts or agreements, would not be allowed as nformation could be submitted through the online portal by e-mail or by phone. She added that the information, which could be submitted on condition of anonymity, could be submitted through documentary evidence and provision of specific and fact-based information such as what occurred, amount involved, who was involved and dates of occurrence on the portal.
In her words, Adeosun added, “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 ‘whistleblow’ 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 victimisation for sharing your concerns, restitution will be made for any loss suffered.
The information provided would be reviewed and analysed to determine whether or not to open an investigation into the matter. For criminal matters, she said such cases would be referred to relevant agencies such as the police, ICPC and the EFCC. The minister however, warned that false information could attract prosecution. She said, “A first-level review will always be carried out to determine credibility and sufficiency of information received. If you report false or misleading information, it will be referred to the enforcement agents for investigation and possible prosecution.”
Asides possible prosecution, those found guilty would be blacklisted from working with or doing business with the government.