Amid the raging COVID-19 pandemic, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission has warned against the diversion of funds or sharp practices by government and emergency officials.
The Spokesperson for the ICPC, Mrs. Rasheedat Okoduwa, said in a statement that public officials should also practice “social distancing from corruption” or face the consequences.
According to the statement from past experiences, national emergencies and pandemics instigate need for proactive measures driven by local or national exigency such as the times that the country is in.
The statement cautions against the exigency of the times resulting in further undermining the credibility and stability of Nigeria’s health system including the well being of those who operate therein and the citizens to be catered for.
“Emergency response is not immune to corruption risks. As the threat to national livelihood increases, so do the vulnerabilities to dishonesty. Corrupt public and private sector individuals will again test the nation’s anti-corruption architecture and commitment to integrity. It has happened before and may happen again. “
We have seen corruption in past responses to –
◦ managing the needs of internally displaced persons;
◦ treatment of persons affected by natural disasters or acts of God;
◦ delivery of government palliatives for the poorest of the poor;
◦ Implementation of policies to address critical economic vulnerabilities such as assistance to SME; poverty alleviation programmes; improvement in education, promotion of agriculture etc.
These emergencies did not prick the conscience of greedy policy makers and public and private sector implementers of otherwise noble and responsive government policies not to exploit the dire situation to negative advantage.
This very attitude of greed and impunity is what has consistently undermined positive outcomes from otherwise well thought-out national response programmes and laid-out plans that covered everything except keeping corruption in implementation at bay.
Therefore, ICPC, while commending the gallant role being played by all those currently involved in responding to this pandemic wishes to remind us of corruption vulnerabilities in COVID-19 management and response.
Please take note and avoid these pitfalls-
1. Corruption risks inherent in emergency procurement;
2. Non-compliance with laid-down procedures – get necessary approvals. In emergencies approvals are not delayed;
3. Disregarding due diligence;
4. Neglecting post quarantine management and regulatory controls;
5. Ignoring financial control regulations and limits;
6. Engaging in conflict of interest, nepotism, padding, inflated costs and other risky behaviour in the name of emergency response.
This Advisory is not finger pointing at the health sector or its leaders and others in government and outside government who have sacrificially and admirably led our response to COVID-19 thus far. It is an opportunity for reflection and warning to all Nigerians at national and sub-national levels that it is wise to remember that keeping safe distancing from post-pandemic corruption investigation in any sector of the economy is as important as safe social distancing to prevent COVID-19.
The noble desire of government to ameliorate the pain of citizens in these difficult times should not be converted to another rue de la corruption . COVID-19 should not be used as excuse for corruption in any sector of the economy.
Better to be safe than sorry. Responding to this or any other emergency or implementation of government policy for that matter should not increase integrity deficit or risky behaviour.
Keep your social distance from corruption.