The National Pension Commission (PenCom) has achieved a significant milestone, securing the top position in the 2023 Ethics and Integrity Compliance Scorecard (EICS) among 50 regulatory agencies in Nigeria. This accomplishment comes two years after the conviction of Abdulrasheed Maina, former chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT), for money laundering and other offences related to pension funds.
PenCom’s exceptional performance was revealed in a statement on Wednesday in Abuja, where it emerged as the overall 14th position out of 404 Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) on the comprehensive scorecard. The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) conducted the assessment, emphasising PenCom’s “substantial compliance.”
In recognition of this achievement, the ICPC conveyed commendation to PenCom for its unwavering commitment to upholding ethics and integrity in pension administration. The commission praised PenCom’s well-established structures and processes that enhance efficiency, urging management to maintain high service delivery standards.
The EICS, initiated by the ICPC, aims to evaluate MDAs’ compliance with ethical, integrity, statutory, policy, and regulatory standards. This aligns with PenCom’s preventive mandate, intending to minimise corruption risks, prevent system abuse, and revitalise ethics and integrity benchmarks in public service institutions. The overarching goal is to ensure good service delivery while fostering a culture of ethical conduct within these organisations.
In response to the recognition, PenCom affirmed its dedication to sustaining transparency in regulating the Nigerian pension industry. This commitment continues to manifest through consistent increases in pension assets and other key performance indicators, ultimately benefiting pension contributors and retirees.
The ICPC’s acknowledgement of PenCom’s ethical practices adds a positive dimension to the narrative surrounding pension administration in Nigeria, especially considering the challenges highlighted by the Maina case in 2021.
In 2021, Abdulrasheed Maina, the former chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT), faced legal consequences for various financial crimes related to pension funds in Nigeria. Maina was convicted of money laundering by a federal high court in Abuja in November 2021.
The court found Maina guilty of stealing over N2 billion belonging to pensioners, many of whom had passed away without receiving their entitled benefits. Maina was also implicated in concealing his true identity as a signatory to accounts opened in two banks, UBA and Fidelity Bank. These accounts held substantial cash deposits of N300 million, N500 million, and N1.5 billion, respectively.
The court held that Maina had unlawfully diverted funds meant for pensioners and couldn’t provide a legitimate source for the money. Furthermore, it was established that Maina’s salary and emoluments as a civil servant did not align with the significant amounts found in the aforementioned accounts.
Additionally, Maina was found guilty of purchasing a property in Abuja valued at $1.4 million. The transaction was completed in cash, surpassing the statutory threshold of N5 million and bypassing the requirement to go through a financial institution, constituting a criminal offence.
The court’s judgement highlighted the severity of Maina’s financial misconduct, emphasising the misappropriation of pension funds and other illicit financial activities. These legal proceedings marked a significant development in the fight against corruption within Nigeria’s pension administration system.
The recent recognition of the National Pension Commission (PenCom) by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) serves as a noteworthy contrast, showcasing the strides taken to strengthen ethical standards in the country’s pension sector following Maina’s conviction.