Leveraging on its preventive mandate as enshrined in Section 6 (b)-(d) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000, the Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) has drawn up corruption prevention guidelines for the management of relief funds by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19.
The guidelines are in furtherance of the objective for which the Commission recently set up a monitoring team to collaborate with the PTF in ensuring the transparent utilization of funds, donations and other receipts mobilized towards combating the outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease in the country.
Salient among the several provisions of the guidelines are: first, the Bank Accounts Policy which allows the Chairman of the PTF the discretion to designate bank accounts solely for the collection of funds and donations, as well as a specific bank account that receipts are swept into for expenditure whose signatories, though appointed by the Chairman, PTF shall not have approving powers. Reconciliations of the accounts and books maintained shall be submitted to the Chairman, PTF monthly.
Also, there is the Expenditures and Payments provision which requires payments to vendors, suppliers and ad-hoc staff to be mainly by bank transfer after they have made supplies or rendered service in order to leave trails.
Furthermore, the responsibility for procurements rests on the shoulders of the Chairman, PTF and all such procurements are required to adhere to the provisions of Section 43 of the Public Procurement Act, 2007 in the emergency period. Additionally, all post-COVID procurements must comply fully with the comprehensive provisions of the procurement law.
The guidelines also require all cash advances to be subject to the Financial Regulations (FR) and Public Service Rules (PSR). Petty cash advances may be made to an officer for petty cash transactions as approved by the Chairman, PTF. Officials who receive such advances shall be personally accountable and financially liable for the custody and management of the advances. They must account for the advances at any given time and are to report weekly to the Chairman or as he may direct.
What is more, the guidelines make quite useful and specific provisions to take care of approval thresholds, audit, monitoring and evaluation while encouraging the Task Force to “engage the active participation of individuals or groups outside the public sector to enhance accountability, transparency and promote public participation and contribution”. This is to ensure that information is made available to the public and for them to provide feedback through the ICPC toll-free telephone lines, email, social media platforms, etc. to eliminate the suspicion of corruption.
The guidelines shall not apply to donations and receipts from the private sector unless they are given to the Task Force to manage.
It may be recalled that Chairman of ICPC, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, had set up the independent COVID-19 Funds Monitoring Team with the responsibility of preventing possible financial abuses that may arise in the management of these funds.
While inaugurating the team at the ICPC headquarters in Abuja, Prof. Owasanoye had noted that the team would be working in collaboration with the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 to ensure value for money, fairness, transparency, accountability and integrity, in order that the COVID-19 funds achieve their intended outcomes in the overall interest of the nation.