Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Director-General of Projects Development Institute (PRODA), Enugu, Dr. Charles Agulanna, has been recommended to go on immediate suspension for six months over acts of gross misconduct which include contract-splitting, misappropriation of funds, prolonged absence from duty without leave, nepotism and insubordination, among others.
PRODA was a creation of the defunct East Central State Government under Edict No. II of 1971. It was charged with the broad function of generating and catalyzing industrialization by carrying out industrial research from the laboratory stage to the pilot plant stage, and by rendering consultancy services to Governments, industry and individuals.
It is, therefore, one of the oldest Research Institutes in the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology (FMST).
The Governing Board of PRODA, Chaired by Comrade Daniel Onjeh, unanimously took the decision at the end of its recent quarterly meeting held on June 21st through June 25th, 2020, was which had Agulanna in attendance.
According to a leaked memo to the Minister of Science and Technology sighted by our Correspondent in Abuja, the Board took the decision after establishing a prima facie evidence against the, DG sequel to its preliminary findings into the query it issued him on March 2nd, 2020.
The Board also accused the DG of suppression of vital information and sabotage, misappropriation of funds, prolonged absence from duty without leave, nepotism and insubordination, among others.
The memo was signed by the Board’s Chairman and other members of the Board except the DG, who doubles as the its Secretary.
It said the recommendation for the suspension of the DG for the period of six months was in line with Chapter 3, Section 4 and Subsection 030406, of the Public Service Rules.
It added that the suspension of the DG was also in compliance with the circular issued by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) with Ref. No: SGF/OP/I.S.3/T/163 and dated 19th May, 2020.
The DG, the board noted during its preliminary findings, failed to satisfactorily controvert the allegations leveled against him in the query.
Attached to the Board’s memo was a 15-page report of its Preliminary Findings into the Query served on the PRODA DG , with Ref. No. PGA/GB/04/VI/048/V.I/20 and dated March 2, 2020, detailing documentary evidences and witnesses cross-examined by the Board to establish a prima facie evidence against the DG.
In the attached report, the Board accused the DG of thriving in a culture of impunity and crass administrative rascality under the last administration, adding that the DG was working at cross-purposes with the policy direction of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration, by sabotaging the Board’s efforts at helping to reposition the institute to fulfill its core mandate.
The memo said the Board’s Establishments Committee had been tasked to investigate the allegations against the DG and to submit its report and recommendations within six months.
“Consequently, the Board unanimously recommended the suspension of the DG for a period of six months, pending the conclusion of the Committee’s findings.
“In invoking the above provision, the Board was properly guided by Chapter 16, Section 5, Subsection 160501 and 160502 of the Public Service Rules.
“The Board further recommended that in line with the SGF’s circular of 4th December, 2017, the next most senior officer of PRODA should act in the absence of the DG”.
The memo added that as proof of the DG’s flagrant disregard for the directives and resolutions of the Board, the Board had in February 2019, directed the DG to officially notify the Parent Ministry of the death of a member of the Governing Board, Mr Abubakar Dagachi.
The board in the memo recommending Agulanna’s suspension, the DG was yet to comply with that directive over one year later.
“The Board considered it necessary to suspend the DG while the Committee carries out its work,” the memo said.
The board also accused the DG of consistently concealing relevant information that could aid it in performing its official functions, adding that he treats the Board with sheer contempt.
The Board said that in spite concerted requests, the DG had failed to avail it of PRODA’s Audited Accounts for 2018 and 2019; Procurement Plans and the Minutes of Tender’s Board meetings for 2018 and 2019.
It said the DG had also failed to avail the Board Letters of Contract Award, Valuation Certificates, Approved Payment Certificates of Job Completion for 2018 and 2019, among others.
According to the memo, aside the usual invitation from the Parent Ministry to the annual Techno Expo usually held in Abuja, the DG had not furnished the Board with any relevant information it had requested from him since it was inaugurated in March 2018.
This, it said, had created a scenario where the Board was literally operating in the dark.
The memo also said that the DG hardly prepares the minutes of Board meetings, as the Board members had not signed more than two minutes of Board meetings, out of the nine (9) Board meetings it had held so far.
The Board further accused the Agulanna of doctoring the minutes of Board meetings and inserting details that were never deliberated upon by the Board, as it suits him.
The Board equally accused the him of administering PRODA purely as a “one-man business”.
“So the DG’s presence at the helm of affairs while the committee carried out its work, could result in the concealing of relevant files that could expedite the work of the Committee”, the board said in the memo added.
Efforts to reach the DG to get his reaction to the allegations however proved abortive. He did not respond to a text sent to his phone at 4:20pm on Sunday, seeking for his reaction. Calls to his number at 2.22pm, 4.00 and 5:20pm did not go through as his number was switched off.