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‘Strong institutions needed to fight corruption’

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By Joseph Jibueze, Deputy News Editor

Auditor-General of the Federation (AuGF) Anthony Ayine, Chief Executive Officer of Financial Derivatives Mr Bismarck Rewane and other experts yesterday said it will require strong institutions and a collaborative effort to tackle corruption successfully.

They spoke at a webinar by the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), with the theme: Nigerian financial management systems in the fight against corruption.

Ayine believes tackling corruption requires “efforts on multiple fronts”.

He said: “All three arms of government have key roles to play in tackling corruption and there are a number of obvious gaps that are yet to be addressed/closed.”

He said the legislature needs to do much more with audit reports and issue resolutions if the accountability cycle is to be complete and effective.

According to him, while law enforcement and systems automation are necessary, the country needs to strengthen its external audit capacity, especially the Supreme Audit Initiative (SAI).

Ayine, who was represented, said: “For example, the Office of the AuGF does not have an enabling law or the administrative and financial independence it requires to function effectively. It does not have the independence of the ICPC or EFCC.

“The work of the SAI is to be proactive in addressing risks and blocking loopholes, and a high performing OAuGF will help address corruption at a systemic level through year-round external audits, as no other institution has the same constitutional powers of access and proactive inquiry.

“However, the independence to use these powers to maximum effect is not yet there despite over a decade of pursuing an audit law.”

Rewane said there will be less corruption when there are sound policies and strong institutions even if there is bad leadership.

Conversely, he said there will be a high level of corruption where there are weak institutions, even if there are sound policies and good leadership.

He also believes there will be “high corruption” where there are bottlenecks, compared to where processes are competitive, and where there are no “real” consequences attached, resulting in impunity.

He identified factors that result in what he called structural corruption, such as political instability, high-level bureaucracy, inefficient administrative structures and low political transparency, as opposed to incidental corruption “forced by need and propelled by greed”.

Rewane said: “The structure that we run facilitates deviant behaviour. Corruption thrives where there are bottlenecks. We must change the structure to reduce corruption.”

He noted the social, political, environmental and economic costs of corruption, which he said is steadily increasing partly due to weak institutions and “inadequate checks on public sector employee performance”.

The financial expert recommended: “Existing anti-corruption laws and measures should be effectively and efficiently implemented. Consequences and penalties should be attached to these anti-corruption laws.

“There should be zero bias in executing anti-corruption penalties. Public sector officials should be monitored and well evaluated. There should be no political immunity. Everyone should be under the rule of law.”

Also at the event were Chairman, Senate Committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes, Senator Suleiman Kwari, representatives of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), PACAC Chairman Prof Itse Sagay (SAN) and members, among others.

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