February 04, 2019 Public Contract Law Journal

Adapting Nigeria’s Whistleblower Policy to Procurement Frauds : A Cue from the False Claims Act's Qui Tam Provision

by Rabiat Origis

Rabiat Ozigis is an LL.M student at The George Washington University Law School. She is a Principal Legal Officer at the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), Nigeria. She was called to the Nigerian Bar in November 2007 and has worked with the BPP for over nine years.

The views expressed in this paper are purely those of the author as a student and not as staff of the BPP.

I.  Introduction

The concept of whistleblowing has proven to be effective in tackling fraud, especially procurement fraud. A case in point is the False Claims Act (FCA) in the United States, which rewards relators up to thirty percent of amounts recovered for providing the government with information on fraud;1 the size of the bounty depends on whether or not a relator personally prosecuted the fraudulent act.2

Accordingly, the Nigerian government, in a bid to tackle corruption, has promulgated a whistleblower policy.3 This policy, among others, encourages individuals to provide the government with information on any act of fraud or corruption witnessed.4 As a result, the whistleblower earns a reward, varying from 2.5% to 5% of any stolen money recovered or voluntarily returned.5 This policy has witnessed tremendous success in recovering billions of naira in stolen funds.

However, recovery of stolen or concealed funds is only part of what the policy seeks to achieve; the policy has not attained the same level of success preventing all the types of procurement fraud it seeks to protect against. This is due to either the policy language or the absence of a whistleblower protection law.

This Article argues that Nigeria should extend the whistleblower reward to procurement fraud in order to correct the impression created by the policy verbiage that the bounty is applicable only to stolen funds that were returned voluntarily. Furthermore, this Article recommends taking a cue from the U.S. qui tam provision of the False Claims Act to empower private individuals to prosecute fraud on behalf of the government where they have enough information to do so.

This Article proceeds in four parts. The first part examines procurement fraud in Nigeria and the attendant consequences. The second part discusses the success of the Nigerian whistleblowing in tackling financial fraud, the possibility of empowering private individuals to bring actions for fraud on behalf of the government, and the impediments that attend such a law in Nigeria. The third part considers the evolution of the qui tam, the constitutional standing of a relator, and the scope of application of the FCA. The fourth part explores why Nigeria should adopt qui tam.

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