Business Hilights
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Whistle-blowing Policy: Experts fault minister in proof of submission

Barley one week after the unveiling of an innovative financial crime fighting platform, the Whistle-blowing Policy by the Federal Ministry of Finance (FMF), forensic experts have welcomed the idea but faulted the preferred evidence of information submission.

Findings by our correspondent at the portal (www.finance.gov.ng) showed that on completion and submission of needed whistle blowing information, the system only generates a number it called ‘Reference Number’ or sends a receipt confirmation mail to the senders valid email.

According to the government, the FMF-Whistle Blowing Policy is a secure, online portal through which information bordering on violation of financial regulations, mismanagement of public funds and assets, financial malpractice or fraud and theft that is deemed to be in the interest of the public can be disclosed. The online portal also permits the person disclosing the information to perform a status check on matters that have been reported on the whistle blowing online portal.

But crack investigative experts who shared their knowledge and experience with Business Hilights faulted the model of response from the ministry on the portal, saying it lacked strong whistle blowing evidence as there is nothing to show to the sender the exact information he or she had given to the government.

According to them, every whistle blower must have a soft and hard copy of the exact details so filled on the portal so that he or she can lay claims beyond reasonable doubt that he was the true sender.

Speaking in an interview, Mr. Joe Emmanuel a forensic expert based in Lagos said “Giving me a reference number after submitting hard information in the portal is not reassuring that government is serious and this can weaken the spirit of the new idea”.

“If I can summon the courage to give information of this order, government should find it necessary to allow me have a printout of the whole information as given so that I can be reassured that nobody can short change me in time of giving out the five per cent of the recovered loot.

“Moreover, you cannot believe it but it is possible that with reference number only, you may be told after the completion of the matter and recovery of the loot that it was not your details that aided the recovery of the loot and because you do not have anything to show the exact information you gave out, you have lost out entirely.

Continuing, he said “I think government should look at the site again and introduce something that can be more tangible for a genuine whistle blower to believe that his efforts should not be robbed off after all. Again, there is an embarrassing spelling error on that portal which tends to show that government was not serious. Organisation was wrongly spelt somewhere in the form online.

“We should be mindful of what we push out especially at government level to avoid embarrassment both locally and internationally.

Another expert who pleaded anonymity observed that some agencies of the government appeared twice on the provided list to tick while filling the online form. He gave example with NIMASA, saying it appeared two times and some other agencies were missing on the list which did not provide space to write in agencies that may have been excluded in error.

The FMF whistle blowing programme is designed to encourage anyone with information about a violation of financial regulations, mismanagement of public funds and assets, financial malpractice, fraud and theft to report it.

According to the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeousn, the initiator, “Anybody with information about a violation of financial regulations, mismanagement of public funds and assets, financial malpractice or fraud and theft, including but not limited to: internal stakeholders, inter-Government stakeholders, institutional stakeholders and members of the public”.