Budget: ICPC to begin probe of permanent secretaries, DGs

Budget: ICPC to begin probe of permanent secretaries, DGs – There were indications on Tuesday that the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission was set to begin full investigations into the discrepancies and padding of the 2016 Budget.

The PUNCH reliably gathered that the ICPC had already carried out preliminary investigations into the discrepancies.

It was learnt that following the preliminary investigations by the ICPC, no fewer than 13 permanent secretaries and directors would be invited when it starts full probe.

Investigations showed that the commission had been looking at the budget in order to identify Ministries, Departments and Agencies, where certain figures are inflated.

A top government official, who confided in The PUNCH, said the commission would begin full investigation anytime from now.

The official, who declined to mention names and the specific ministries of those to be invited, said, “As of now, 13 permanent secretaries and directors will be invited to come and make clarifications.

“We have not reached any conclusion and nobody has been invited, but they will assist us in our investigations and whatever they say, will lead us to the root of the matter (budget padding).”

It was gathered that the commission extended its preliminary investigation to Ministries, Departments and Agencies, where the discrepancies were discovered.

The source said, “We are probing MDAs where there are suspected cases of padding. Their heads will be invited to come and shed light on how they arrived at the figures.”

Efforts to get the reactions of the ICPC Resident Media Consultant, Mr. Folu Olamiti, did not succeed as calls to his mobile phone indicated that it was either switched off or out of coverage areas.

Sources in the Presidency had, on February 6, alleged that a budget mafia planned to scuttle the innovations introduced by the current administration into the budget by inflating the figures.

A mafia was alleged to have proposed a budget of N9.7tn for capital and overhead spending, excluding personnel cost, as against the Presidency’s initial estimate of about N8tn.

The group was said to have proposed N3tn as overheads alone out of the N9.7tn, a figure the Presidency later slashed to N163bn.

The Ministry of Budget and National planning had also promised to investigate and punish those responsible for the errors and strange figures found in the budget, which was presented to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari in December, 2015.

The errors had delayed the passage of the budget with the federal legislature saying the February 25 deadline it set for its approval was no longer feasible.

Meanwhile, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has accused senior lawyers and journalists of frustrating its anti-corruption war.

The Acting Chairman of the EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, said this on Tuesday while addressing a coalition of civil society groups at the commission’s headquarters in Abuja, according to a statement on Tuesday.

Magu said, “Corrupt people hire journalists to abuse us every day. They say we are not doing the work according to the law but that is not true. There is no agency that follows the law more than the EFCC, none. Before we arrest you or seize your property or do anything to you, we check the law, we go to court and get a court order. That is why we are winning; that is why we are defeating them every day.”

While making a veiled reference to Mr. Ricky Tarfa (SAN), who was arrested for allegedly trying to foil the arrest of two Benin Republic nationals in Lagos, Magu said it was disheartening that 34 Senior Advocates of Nigeria could storm the court to defend their colleague.

He said despite their presence in such large number, a ‘small’ EFCC lawyer was able to defeat them as the court refused to quash the charges against Tarfa.

The EFCC boss said, “The other day, 34 Senior Advocates of Nigeria fought against only one small EFCC lawyer in court and he defeated all of them. What we are doing today is not by our power, it is the power of the Nigerian people and the power of God behind us.” Read more (Courtesy Punch Newspaper) 

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