Buhari restricts ministers travels

A travel restriction has been placed on ministers and government officials by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The action is in line with the government’s cost-cutting plan, transparency and prevention of leakage of resources, Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed, said on Monday.

This decision is to support the policy on publication of Daily Treasury Statement (DTS) by the Accountant-General of the Federation, to promote transparency, the minister added.

Mohammed spoke in Lagos while highlighting “the major achievements of the Buhari administration in 2019.”

He said the travel restriction will prevent private trips abroad by public officials at the expense of the government.

He explained that under the new travel regime, ministers and other top officials of the government, would embark on official trips outside the country only twice in a quarter with four relevant aides after obtaining clearance either from the office of the Secretary for the Government of the Federation or office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation.

The minister said: “Similarly, in its effort to block leakages and promote transparency in the management of resources, the President this year approved additional cost-saving measures, particularly in the area of official travels.

“Under the new policy, all MDAs are required to submit their yearly travel plans for statutory meetings and engagements to the office of the SGF and/or the HoCSF for express clearance within the first quarter of the fiscal year, before implementation.

“They are further required to make their presentation using the existing template and also secure approvals on specific travels as contained in the plan  from the appropriate quarters.

“On the nature and frequency of travels, all public-funded travels (local and foreign), must be strictly for official purposes backed with documentary evidence. In this regard, all foreign travels must be for highly-essential statutory engagements that are beneficial to   the country.

“Except with the express approval of Mr. President, ministers, permanent secretaries, chairmen of extra-ministerial departments, chief executive officers and directors are restricted to not more than two foreign travels in a quarter.

“Also, when a minister is at the head of an official delegation, the size of his/her  delegation shall not exceed four, including the relevant director, schedule officer and one aide of the minister. Every other delegation below ministerial level shall be restricted to a maximum of three.”

“For class of air travels, the President has approved that ministers, permanent secretaries, special advisers, senior special assistants to the President, chairmen of extra-ministerial departments and chief executive officers of parastatals who are entitled, to continue to fly business class, while other categories of public officers are to travel on economy class.”

On travel allowances and the steps taken to enhance transparency the minister said: “Also, travel days will no longer attract payment of estacode allowances as duration of official trips shall be limited to only the number of days of the event as contained in the supporting documents to qualify for public funding.

”This administration took a major step forward in the fight against corruption when it launched the Financial Transparency Policy and Portal, also known as Open Government.

“The transparency policy mandates the AGF to publish a Daily Treasury Statement, which will provide information about what comes into the national treasury and what goes out every day.

“Under the policy, the AGF and all accounting officers must publish Daily Payment  Reports. With these reports, the treasury will publish payments of at least N10 million while all MDAS must publish payments above N5 million made out of all public funds in their care.”

He also  said the war against  corruption was yielding results on all fronts, including loot recovery and prosecution.

Mohammed stressed  that  Buhari inaugurated the Financial Transparency Policy and Portal, to help  the Federal Government combat graft headlong.

”This policy is unprecedented and will go a long way in enhancing transparency in governance and curtailing public sector corruption,” he said

He disclosed  that the EFCC recorded  massive success in the anti-graft war by securing 890 convictions within  10 months.

The minister said: “This is the highest anywhere in the world. Recall that in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018, the EFCC was only able to secure 103, 189, 190 and 202 convictions respectively.

“The high rate of convictions in 2019 is in addition to the billions of naira in looted funds that have been recovered by the EFCC.’’

He also pointed out that  the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other-Related Offences Commission (ICPC) inaugurated a novel project of tracking the huge resources allocated to constituency projects over the years.

He said the ICPC had started with the education and health sectors and already, many contractors who abandoned their projects had been returning to site.

Mohammed stated that  the ICPC also inaugurated  an application known as  WAHALA DEY for daily information from its offices  and for Nigerians to report   corrupt acts .

He said that corruption had been driven under the table, adding that   corrupt people  would no longer be able to flaunt their ill-gotten wealth  the way they used to do in the past.

Mohammed used the opportunity to deny the allegation by  Senator Francis Fadahunsi   that he was  behind the hate speech bill.

His words: “You must have read the fake news attributed to Sen. Fadahunsi that I am behind the hate speech bill at the National Assembly, and that the senator who is sponsoring the bill is fronting for me

”This is a typical example of the fake news we are trying to fight. I am not the sponsor of the hate speech bill. However, I remain committed to sanitising the social media.

“I have said that all stakeholders will be involved in determining the modalities for regulating the social media.”

<<The Nation>>