Home Cover ICPC uncovers N3.3bn fraud in Water Resources Ministry

ICPC uncovers N3.3bn fraud in Water Resources Ministry

Professor Bolaji Owasanoye and President Muhammadu Buhari
Professor Bolaji Owasanoye and President Muhammadu Buhari

*59 Directors arrested
*300 MDAs inflate personnel costs by N18.6bn

The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) has uncovered a massive fraud of over N3.3billion in the federal Ministry of Water Resources in just one month, during which officials brazenly violated the Integrated Personnel’s Payroll System (IPPS) and mandatory e-payment directives.

Chairman of the ICPC, Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, disclosed this on Tuesday in Abuja in his keynote address at the national summit on ‘‘Diminishing Corruption in the Public Service’’ – organised by the ICPC in collaboration with the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.

He said that the Commission had been investigating federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) since 2017, and that about 300 of them have been found to have inflated personnel costs by about N18.6 billion; while some MDAs spent N9.2b of capital funds on overhead related items, in contravention of extant financial regulations.

Owasanoye stated that “we found to our surprise that some MDAs fail to remit tax and divert pension and NHIS deductions for unrelated payments thus aggravating the sufferings of other Nigerians.

“Some MDAs abused the e-payment policy of government thus making payments through staff accounts instead of to actual beneficiaries.

“Most egregious in the current cycle of review is the Federal Ministry of Water Resources where N3.3b was paid out in about a month through the accounts of staff. ICPC arrested 59 directors from the ministry and investigation is on going.”

The ICPC boss urged President Muhammadu Buhari, who attended the summit, to insist on use of IPPS by all MDAs, and to dismiss and prosecute any head of agency that engages in diversion or non payment or remittance of tax, pension, health insurance or any statutory deduction.

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“We hope that the conversation we will have in this one and a half day summit will lead to concrete suggestions towards reducing these anomalous practices and processes that fuel corruption and undermine the development aspirations of the country.

“ICPC will take enforcement actions including recovery of diverted funds, name and shame and prosecution of the most egregious cases of infractions while putting some MDAs on a watch list due to their vulnerability and propensity to corruption.

“We recommend that diversion or non payment or remittance of tax, pension, health insurance or any statutory deduction should attract dismissal of head of the agency and immediate prosecution. Should government accept this recommendation ICPC will furnish government with list of defaulting MDAs.”

Owasanoye stressed to the President that “in light of these findings sir we encourage full implementation of your directive that MDAs not on IPPIS should not be paid as our review shows that most of the guilty MDAS are not on IPPIS.”

He highlighted some of the outcomes of the ICPC’s probe of other MDAs, constituency projects and national social investment programmes.

According to him, “we widened the use of our powers under section 6(b-d) of our enabling law to scrutinize the practices, systems and procedures of MDAs in respect of personnel cost from 2017 to July 2019 and 2018 capital development fund.

“Part of our preliminary findings revealed gross abuse of personnel budget and inflation or padding of the nominal role. As at the time we went to press we had covered about 300 MDAs and the amount inflated was about N12b.

“As at today, we have discovered additional N6b making a total of N18.624b restrained by ICPC. The exercise is still on going but we can confidently report that culprit MDAs are mostly academic and health institutions.

“For example preliminary findings show the following-: University of Benin Teaching Hospital (N1.1b); – Federal Medical Center, Bayelsa (N915m); Nnamdi Azikwe University (N907m); University of Jos (N896m); University College Hospital Ibadan (N701m); Usman Dan Fodio University N636m; University of Ibadan (N558m).

“These institutions and all those implicated will be given the opportunity to explain themselves however, while investigations are on to confirm any credible explanations they may have, we have alerted the Minister of Finance of our findings and appropriate steps are being taken to ensure that implicated MDAs will not be able to spend the excess built into their personnel budget.

“Let me note with regret that in the 2017-2018 fiscal year, the balances recorded for personnel were wrongfully utilized by MDAs for other purposes due to lack of pro activity by late enforcement and related agencies. That sum amounted to N18.39b.”

In tracking constituency projects of 2015-2015 that had capital budget of over N100 billion for 424 projects, the ICPC found some irregularities but ensured the completion of 255 of them in 12 states spread across the six geo-political zones, for which N22.27b was awarded in contracts.

“By monitoring the projects and enforcing completion we saved government about N2b in recovery of diverted assets, such as equipments for schools, hospitals, farms, water or energy projects.

“We forced 34 contractors back to site in the selected states and a cumulative number of 200 contractors back to site across the country in states where we have not commenced enforcement activities.

“We discovered that some agencies of government are favorites for embedding of constituency projects in irrespective of their core mandate and capacity of these agencies to deliver or supervise projects.

“The attraction appears to be either corrupt tendencies within such agencies the inherent weaknesses within them. Most notorious in this regard are Border Communities Development Agency and Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria”, Owasanoye added.

Two public officials were rewarded during the summit with a presidential handshake, a token gift and conferment with the maiden Public Service Integrity Award, for rising above greed and temptation to become examples of integrity in the course of their duties.

They are Mrs. Josephine Ugwu of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN); and Assistant Comptroller of Customs (ACG), Mr. Bashir Abubakar of Nigeria Customs Service.

The ICPC boss explained that “Mrs Ugwu’s case is particularly fascinating and inspiring. Despite her obvious very low economy status with a salary of N12,000 and frequent temptation at finding huge sums of money she remained steadfast with integrity. A clear sign that poverty is not the main driver of corruption but rather greed.

“On investigation we found that Mrs. Ugwu has no accommodation therefore ICPC in collaboration with Office of the Vice President, the support of Woodford Consulting led by Mrs Temilade Okesanjo and the kind donations of NNPC and Bank of Industry raised some money to buy her a bungalow in Lagos.”

He disclosed that the ICPC would provide through public education and enlightenment programs platforms at which the awardees will be guest speakers to motivate other Nigerians that integrity pays no matter how long it takes to be recognized.

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