The review of whistle-blower policy - Full Gist News


Monday, 30 April 2018

The review of whistle-blower policy

The review of whistle-blower policy

Unarguably, the whistle-blower policy introduced by the Federal Government in 2016, is one of the few well-thought-out plans of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s government, to fight economic and financial crimes in the country. The initiative encourages anyone with information on any financial impropriety against the government and people of Nigeria, to report it.

Almost two years after, the Federal Government is planning to review the investigative framework of the policy that will focus more on preventive than punitive measures. Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, disclosed this at a recent workshop on the evaluation of the Whistle-blower Policy on Assets Tracking Team organised by the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), in Abuja. Part of the review of the investigative framework will involve putting in place measures that will make it hard for economic and financial crimes perpetrators to misappropriate public funds. Government also explained that it would work with relevant stakeholders and institutions to improve the effectiveness of the policy to achieve its objectives.

The idea to review some aspects of the whistle-blower policy is perhaps one of the outcomes of a recent tour of the United Kingdom (UK) by the Whistle-blower Policy and Assets Tracking Team, during which the members held meetings with various UK government agencies.

As a major plank of this administration’s anti-corruption agenda, every measure to strengthen the whistle-blower policy should be supported, provided it is transparently done. Undoubtedly, a review of the investigative framework has become necessary to correct some lapses in the policy since its inception two years. Therefore, we urge the government to put in place the necessary instruments that will make it work better.

It has been generally observed that the policy has experienced some problems as a result of avoidable controversies over the payment of compensation to whistle-blowers who provided leads to the recovery of stolen public funds. We recall the recovery of billions of cash in an apartment at the Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos. No fewer than nine people made claims to the N850m compensation to the whistle-blower. This controversy made a review of the investigative framework of the policy expedient.

Though financial incentive to whistle-blowers is a step in the right direction, government must collaborate with the National Assembly to review our extant laws that may provide an escape route to looters of public funds. It is heartening, however, that the National Assembly had passed into law a bill seeking protection for genuine whistle-blowers against persecution and intimidation by their employers or anyone.

At the same time, false whistle-blowers will pay a fine of N10m or five years imprisonment. Such tough laws have served countries such as the United States, the UK, Japan, Canada and New Zealand well in checking financial crimes. If the whistle-blower policy must succeed, it must not be used to witch-hunt political opponents. It is, therefore, necessary to avoid any action that will lead to abuse of power in the anti-graft war of the government.

Considering the high level of corruption in the country, a comprehensive review of some aspects of the whistle-blower policy is imperative. So far, the government has received over 5,000 tips from whistle-blowers. We advise that such efforts should be sustained because corruption is a threat to our democracy and the economy.

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