Amid the raging COVID-19 pandemic, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission has warned government and emergency officials not to divert funds or engage in sharp practices.

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.

The commission said, “As the nation reels from the effect of COVID-19, ICPC wishes to caution against increase in risky behaviour hinged on critical desire to respond to COVID-19.”

The anti-graft agency said from past experience, national emergencies and pandemics instigate need for proactive measures driven by local or national exigency such as the times that we are in.

It said government officials had in the past even diverted funds meant for Internally Displaced Persons.

The statement read in part, “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 and implementation of policies to address critical economic vulnerabilities such as assistance to SMEs; poverty alleviation programmes; improvement in education, promotion of agriculture etc.”

While commending the gallant role being played by all those currently involved in responding to COVID-19, the ICPC said procurement processes must be respected.

The commission advised public officials to be mindful of corruption risks inherent in emergency procurement; endeavour to get necessary approvals even in emergency situations, ensure due diligence; avoid neglecting post quarantine management and regulatory controls, and take note of financial control regulations and limits.

The ICPC spokesperson said engaging in conflict of interest, nepotism, padding, inflated costs and other risky behaviour in the name of emergency response would not be tolerated

The commission added, “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.”

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