From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) said, yesterday, the review of the 2021 budget has led to discovery of 257 duplicated projects worth N20.138 billion.
Chairman of ICPC, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, made the disclosure at the third national summit on Diminishing Corruption in Public Sector, with the theme: Corruption and Coat of Government New Imperatives for Fiscal Transparency, organised by the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).
He said the commission also uncovered a syndicate of corrupt individuals within the service which corruptly employed unsuspecting Nigerians, issued them fake letters of employment, fraudulently enrolled them on IPPIS and post them to equally unsuspecting MDAs to commence work. He said ICPC was already prosecuting one of the leaders of the syndicate from whose custody led to the retrieval of several fake letters of recommendation purportedly signed by Chief of Staff to the President, ministers, federal civil service commission and other high ranking Nigerians.
Owasanoye added that ICPC’s projects tracking covered 1,083 projects across entire country with exception of Borno and Zamfara due to security challenges.
He said the exercise verified implementation of executive and zip projects of legislators. He added that so far, action has been initiated against 67 contractors and forced them back to site and ensured completion of 966 projects worth N310 billion some of which were hitherto abandoned.
The ICPC boss added that there was a mini civil wars going on between the Board and management and sometimes within the board. He added that the squabbles were as a result of abuse of power prohibited by ICPC Act and unreasonable demands by some Board members for privileges contrary to extant circulars and laws and government’s resolve to minimise cost of governance.
He identified illegal recruitment, illegal and unilateral increase in wages and remuneration by some MDAs as some of the factors responsible for high cost of governance and rising personnel budget. Other factors, he said, were indiscriminate local and international travels, unreasonable demands by some political appointee board members of MDAs and budget padding.
According to him, ICPC is investigating some cases of illegal recruitment forwarded to it by the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation.
He said the Ministry of Labour and the University College Hospital, Ibadan, and some employees of other MDAs had been implicated in illegal recruitments.
“This abuse of power is consummated with complicity of compromised elements in IPPIS. These cases are currently under investigation. At another level, a syndicate of corrupt individuals within the service corruptly employ unsuspecting Nigerians and issue them fake letters of employment.
However, President Muhammadu Buhari has threatened that his administration would not hesitate to punish heads of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) that fraudulently present new projects as ongoing projects in the budget.
This is even as he warned that his administration would sanction those who bring in personnel into the public workforce by illegal recruitment, pad their payroll and retain ghost workers.
“We reduced the cost of governance by maintaining our promise to complete abandoned or ongoing projects commenced by previous administrations and have ensured that MDAs do not put forward new capital projects at the expense of ongoing projects.
‘‘Government has, however, noted from the activities of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) that some MDAs have devised the fraudulent practice of presenting new projects as ongoing projects.
“Necessary action and sanctions will continue against the heads of such errant MDAs. I am confident that ICPC will continue to maintain the vigilance required of her by the ICPC Act in this regard,” he said.
But reacting to the ICPC’s allegation, Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, said he was the one that initiated an investigation when he discovered the employment scam in his ministry.
A statement by the Deputy Director Press and Public Relations in the Ministry, Charles Akpan, said the case was an old but ongoing investigation which the ICPC ought to have completed since Senator Ngige reported the matter, upon re-appointment as Minister in August 2021.
“Yes, there was an illegal recruitment perpetrated between May 29, 2019 and August 2019 when the president dissolved his first term cabinet and Senator Ngige temporarily out of office. However, upon re-appointment and resumption of duties in August 2021, Sen. Ngige discovered the illegality and promptly raised it at the Federal Executive Council, necessitating a preliminary investigation by the office of the Head of Service of the Federation.
“The minister subsequently empaneled an internal investigative committee in the ministry to unearth how 752 senior and 532 junior staff members were recruited in the ministry without ministerial and Head of Civil Service of the Federation approval, as stipulated in the extant circular on recruitment .
“Unfortunately, the activities of the Committee were stalled by the then Permanent Secretary who claimed that the ICPC had stepped into the matter .
“The onus, therefore, lies squarely on the ICPC to break the syndicate which the Minister appropriately reported first at the Federal Executive Council and subsequently taken over by the ICPC two and half years ago.
“This is the right step instead of rehashing an old development and singling out for bad publicity, a ministry whose Minister decided to blow the whistle on fraud as the Deputy Chairman of the Presidential Committee on Salaries saddled with the responsibility of bringing down undue personnel cost , especially via illegal recruitment .
“The ministry wishes to further note that every recruitment, especially of senior civil servants, passes through the Federal Civil Service Commission, in fact, solely authorized by it. The ICPC should therefore expand its investigation into the Federal Civil Service Commission to break the syndicate, a commendable step in this direction, no doubt.
•60% of overhead expenditure on travels, stationery, reveals SGF
Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, in his opening remarks said in three years, 60 per cent of its overhead expenditure were on travels, maintenance, welfare and stationery in three years.
He said it was no longer acceptable for the country’s resources to be expended on frivolities, fake projects and meaningless capital projects.
He added that the Federal Government is working towards reducing the cost of governance and utilising its resources efficiently.
He added that the Buhari’s administration has so far demonstrated and still continues to demonstrate its determination to fight corruption and improve governance no matter what it takes and howsoever corruption fights back with the stolen resources at its disposal.
He urge Nigerians to support the anti-corruption agencies in its fight against graft, because it is a collective responsibility.
•746 corruption cases dispensed with –CJN
In his good will message, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Tanko Muhammad, said the judiciary has been in the forefront in the fight against graft.
He said despite the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in virtually the whole of 2020 and a better part of 2021, 746 corruption cases were dispensed with.
“Similarly, the number of forfeited non-cash recoveries made, include 51 Automobiles, 16 Real Estates, 11 Barge/Tug Boats and 2 Schools. Between 2nd January and 14th November, 2021, a total number of 1,144 suspects were convicted of various corruption and financial related crimes, while the number of non-cash forfeited assets has also risen to include: eight Aircrafts, seven Filling Stations, 48 Real Estates and 149 Vehicles, amongst others. Similarly, various cash forfeiture were made in hundreds of millions of Naira. We shall not rest on our oars until every trace of corruption and undue exercise of influence to negatively secure unmerited advantage over others is stamped out of our clime.
“It is my fervent belief that if all of us work in harmony with one voice and renewed determination, corruption and allied vices will certainly be on their way out of our beloved country and our voice shall, once again, be loudly heard and respected among the comity of nations.”