The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), has urged the Federal Government to publish more details on alleged fraud of part of the one trillion naira budgeted for the Social Investments Programme (SIP).
A statement signed by the group’s Deputy Director, Mr Timothy Adewale in Abuja on Monday, also called on the government to publish the exact amount of Abacha’s looted funds that was returned by Switzerland.
The group also urged President Muhammadu Buhari to instruct the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr Abubakar Malami, and Minister of Finance Ms Kemi Adeosun to make public the details.
“We urge the president to instruct appropriate authorities to publish details of how his government plans to spend the 85 million dollars returned by the United Kingdom from the controversial Malabu deal involving 1.6 billion dollars.
“This is so as to remove the risks of corruption or mismanagement of the money.
“The Special Adviser on SIP, Maryam Uwais, had last week reportedly disclosed that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was invited to probe massive fraud and other corrupt practices.
“This is because corrupt practices like short-changing, racketeering, harassment of beneficiaries and exploitation of the vulnerable plagued the scheme in some states.’’
Adewale said that while SERAP welcomed the reported disclosure of fraud and corruption and the request to EFCC to probe the allegations, it was concerned that sufficient details about the allegations had not been disclosed.
He said that Nigerians had the right to know more about the allegations, including the names of the states involved, and whether the recently returned 321 million dollars Abacha loot was affected by the reported fraud and corruption.
According to him, it is important for the government to identify and remove the risks of corruption in the SIP as fast as possible.
He said that it was also necessary to let Nigerians know the exact steps the authorities were taking to protect public funds, including the returned Abacha loot in the implementation of SIP.
According to him, the states, contractors and those involved in the fraud should be named and shamed to serve as deterrent to others and to preserve the integrity of the SIP.
“Transparency in the spending of returned Abacha loot and Malabu funds is absolutely important to ensure that the funds are utilised for tackling poverty and inequality in the country and not mismanaged, diverted or re-stolen.
“The authorities should actively take steps to prevent any misuse of the repatriated funds.
“It is in the public interests, especially victims of corruption, and the government to maintain good practices with regard to the spending of all assets recovered.
“This will also make repatriation easier and the countries where our commonwealth has been diverted will have no difficulty in disgorging the looted funds.”
Adewale said that the effectiveness of the SIP would be determined by the level of trust the citizens had in the mechanisms put in place by the authorities to prevent fraud and corruption in the implementation of the scheme.
He said that state governments and their officials should not be allowed to undermine citizens’ access to the SIP, adding that any state involved in fraud and corruption should be named and shamed.
Adewale also urged the government to appoint integrity advisors as early warning mechanism for the SIP to monitor implementation of the scheme across the states of the federation.
He said that these advisors would be able to identify and alert on any risks of fraud and corruption, and engage in analysing such risks, as well as in corruption prevention and reporting activities in general.
According to him, it is also important for the authorities to promote and encourage whistle-blower complaints in the implementation of the scheme.
He advised the authorities to take these proactive measures to tackle allegations of fraud and corruption in SIP to ensure that the credibility and integrity of SIP was not undermined. (NAN)