- Former minister of finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said corruption is an African problem
- Okonjo-Iweala declared that she went through in the fight against corruption in Nigeria
- The former minister, however, noted that Nigerians are hardworking people
Former minister of finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, at an event preceding the signing of the book, ‘fighting corruption is dangerous adding that she had to go through in the fight against corruption in Nigeria.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala in an interview with Daily Sun also disclosed that corruption is an African problem.
She said: ”Being on the wrong side of people who had this kind of top levels influence made me uneasy. I knew they could be consequences but I also knew that there was no going back on these important reforms. Clearly the $6 million from the Nigerian Ports Authority from the Cargo Tracking Note not being remitted to the treasury must be going into some influential pockets.
”I don’t think corruption is an African problem. It is not in our culture, it is not peculiar to us. In this book, there are few pages about Nigeria, and one of the things I say is that majority of Nigerians are honest, hardworking people who just want the government to provide basic services and then get out of the way and they will do the rest. And that is what it is.
”The majority of Nigerians are honest, hardworking people just like anywhere but we do have sometimes corrupt and kleptocratic elites, that have captured the heart of governance and so in essence we were held hostage. And it is the same in many countries but in Africa our institutions are not strong enough, there are weak.
”To illustrate to you, in one of the chapters in the book, I talked about the first time I became finance minister, I discovered that the ministry of finance was still doing a lot of things manually and by cash.
”So if we wanted to pay the ministry of agriculture, we will transfer the money to them. They will give us a payroll number at the end of the month and then we will total it up and pay. That means you can introduce all kinds of names into the system each month.
”And so there was a bit of a racket, where people higher up will introduce two or three names, we called them ghost workers and they all died and became ghost pensioners. And people were collecting this money because we didn’t have the system.
”So when I discovered this, I was horrified and I said to President Obasanjo at the time that we had to do something and what we did was to go to the World Bank, DFID, USAID Agency and the IMF and we asked for him. We took a World Bank credit of $76 million, so, this is documented to help us build the system. It was an economic governance project and we put in three systems and it took 10 years.
”Part of the reason I went back the second time was that when I left the first time, it slowed down and something that should have been finished was still lying there because people were not too interested in completing the work including the government.
”We built government Integrated Financial System Management (GIFSM) that built a platform to link the treasury with the ministries, with the accountant general’s office so we could at least have an IT and an electronic platform for our cash management.
”Then we put in the Integrated Personnel and Payroll System (IPPS), which required civil servants to get biometric ID, if you do that and you give us an account we can pay you directly and we don’t have to transfer money. The third part was Treasury Single Account (TSA), which we moved away accounts from the banks where the ministries were keeping them into the central bank, we migrated all the capital accounts first and we were about to do the recurrent accounts in the second time around, when we left office.
”As I’m saying this is very difficult, if you think of this as fighting corruption this is not the kind of things that make people run right, all these things GIFSM, IPPIS, TSA sound very technical. But if you say I arrested somebody and blasted it in the press everybody will sit up but that is not going to build you these systems. What I am trying to say is that it is not cultural or inherent it is the absence of such systems.
”By the way in the book I did document that we were able to weed out 64,000 ghost workers through the system (IPPIS) and saved the government $1.1 billion.”
Meanwhile, Legit.ng had reported that Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala continued to gain recognition on the international stage following her inclusion in a team of top economists tasked to review issues related to global financial governance.
The team which is constituted of eminent persons was formed by the G20 finance ministers to review global financial governance and see how the financial system can deliver better and more impactful outcomes for people, especially those less well off.
The deputy prime minister of Singapore, Tharman Shanmugaratnam, is the chairman of the 16-member international group of top economists and leaders which has been tasked to review issues related to global financial governance.
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