The Lagos Internal Revenue Service (LIRS) through its professional partner, Deloitte, has unveiled its whistle-blowing tip off channels to promote transparency, accountability and general public inclusivity in governance.
The whistle-blowing service provides multilingual, multiple reporting channels such as toll-free hotlines, web portal, email and a mobile application.
Speaking during the launch of the channels on Friday, the LIRS’ Executive Chairman, Mr. Ayodele Subair, said the revenue agency was selected for the pilot phase of the initiative due to its multi-faceted interface with the general public.
He pointed out that the launch of the “Deloitte Tip-Off Anonymous for LIRS” was informed by the need to enlighten and sensitise the tax-paying public in demonstration of the commitment of the agency and the state government to ensuring high ethical standards in all its business processes.
Subair also disclosed that the revenue agency and the state’s Ministry of Finance were chosen for the pilot scheme due to their oversight functions had subscribed to the Deloitte Anonymous and Confidential Whistle-Blowing Facility.
The LIRS’ chairman said that the facility would promote an enabling climate for employees and other relevant stakeholders to report wrongdoings, illegal actions or financial crimes identified and or observed in the LIRS administrative and operational activities.
He said that this would be done without fear of backlash as it would assist in evaluating and improving existing system and assess key practices necessary to create an effective speak-up culture.
Subair explained that engagement of the professional service firm –Deloitte- as independent assessor was to ensure an objective and unbiased review of issues raised.
He said: “This whistleblowing facllity would involve the reporting of acts of commission or omission that border on unethical conduct of employees, management, and other stakeholders by an employee or other interested person(s) through designated channels to appropriate authorities.
“The aim of this policy is to encourage employees and other stakeholders who have serious concerns about any aspect of the agency’s operations to come forward and voice those concerns.
“The facility is designed to ensure that concerns about wrongdoing or malpractice within the agency can be raised by any stakeholder without fear of victimisation, subsequent discrimination, and disadvantage of dismissal.
“This facility does not only provide the avenue to report, but ensures credibility of reports through investigation, feedback to the whistle-blower and ensures protection for such whistle-blower from possible reprisals or victimisation for all disclosures made in good faith”, the tax administrator added.
While assuring the public that all concerns would be treated in confidence with efforts toward concealing the identity of the whistle-blower with anonymous reports considered for seriousness, credibility and possibility of confirmation from other sources, the tax expert stressed, however,
That anonymity would make it much more difficult to protect the position of the whistle-blower or to give feedback.
Subair clarified: “The whistle blowing framework is a two-way affair aiming to expose LIRS staff involved with misconduct, employees of business entities who want to report employers who circumvent tax laws.
“It also helps members of the public who want to raise an alarm on persons or entities who willfully commit financial crimes leading to revenue loss for the state.
“It is noteworthy to mention that all reports must be made in good faith as allegations made frivolously, maliciously or for personal gain would attract appropriate sanctions.
“We are hopeful that all our stakeholders will join us on this journey of purposeful engagements toward achievement of high standards of ethical conduct in the public service space inclusive of dealings with and within LIRS”, the LIRS boss added
Speaking during the launch, the Commissioner for Finance, Dr. Rabiu Olowo, said the state government, through the ministry, approved the facility to provide channel of reporting by stakeholders, employees and the general public.
He explained that research showed that every minute, in the workplace, wrongdoing was observed daily but people were left with very few choices, leading to the decision to remain silent, concluding that nothing could be done.
Olowo expressed optimism that the initiative would remind people of their civic responsibility to report wrongdoings in workplace or in doing business with the government as the initiative would create a culture of accountability and effective governance system.
He said: “Without reporting it, there is nothing we can do, so launching this initiative today presents a channel that can be trusted and the least we can do is to discharge them of any reprisal.
“The LIRS was chosen for the pilot scheme because it represents a framework cuts across and interacts with almost all Ministries, Departments and Agencies.
“LIRS has over the years increased the state revenue with its present monthly average at N42 billion and reporting any misdemeanor that is not in line with the ethics of the government can shore up revenue”, the commissioner added.
Commenting on the initiative, Partner, Deloitte, Mr Beulah Adeoye, said the initiative would afford callers the opportunity to raise concerns regarding wrongdoing, fraud or unethical behaviour within the workplace and report it to an independent party.
He listed attitudes depicting fraud to include; asset misappropriation, corruption, embezzlement, forgery, insider trading, maltreatment, money laundering, rebellion, nepotism, threat, and violent behaviour.
The consulting professional identified other fraudulent types as including dishonesty, bullying, bribery, harassment, expense claim abuse, kickback, stealing, under-invoicing misuse of authority, bribery and over invoicing.