Two hundred and fifty-seven thousand duplicated projects listed in the 2021 Federal Budget have been uncovered by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).
The total value of the projects was put at N20.138 billion by the ICPC Chairman, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye.
Owasanoye also said at the 3rd National Summit on Diminishing Corruption in Public Sector, in Abuja, that the Ministry of Labour and Employment and the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, are among government establishments being investigated for illegal recruitments.
The ministry however said the ICPC was merely “rehashing an old development” which it ought to have completed its investigation.
Owasanoye added that the ICPC tracked 1083 projects across the country, excluding Borno and Zamfara. He explained that the anti-graft agency ensured the completion of 966 of the projects worth N310b.
The ICPC boss said: “ICPC review found that 257 projects amounting to N20.138b were duplicated in the 2021 budget leading us to submit an advisory to the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning which promptly acted on it to prevent abuse.
“We have so far initiated enforcement actions against 67 contractors and forced them back to site and ensured completion of 966 projects worth N310b some of which were hitherto abandoned.”
The ICPC helmsman added that there was no doubt that illegal recruitments, unilateral and illegal increase of salaries and wages, procurement malpractices, and budget padding by some government establishments had pushed up the cost of governance in the country.
He also said the commission uncovered a syndicate within the public service that issues fake letters of employment to unsuspecting Nigerians, fraudulently enrolls them on IPPIS, and posts them to MDAs.
He disclosed that the agency had commenced the prosecution of one of the leaders of the syndicate was arrested in possession of fake letters of recommendation purportedly signed by Chief of Staff to the President, ministers, Federal Civil Service Commission, and other high-ranking Nigerians.
His words: “ICPC investigation of some cases of illegal recruitment forwarded to us by Head of the Civil Service of the Federation has so far implicated Ministry of Labour and the University College Hospital, Ibadan and a number of corrupt staff of other MDAs at a lower level.
“This abuse of power is consummated with the complicity of compromised elements in IPPIS. These cases are currently under investigation.
”Our findings indicate that the same malady of corruption afflicts executive as well as zip projects thus undermining government projections, escalating the cost of governance, and denying Nigeria value for money.
“These maladies include poor needs assessment that disconnects projects from beneficiaries; false certification of uncompleted contracts as completed, deliberate underperformance of contracts incessant criminal diversion and conversion of public property by civil servants, to name just a few.”
The ICPC boss described as mini-wars, the ties between boards and managements of some establishments.
“A number of MDAs have mini-civil wars going on between the boards and managements and sometimes within the board. These squabbles revolve around abuse of power prohibited by ICPC Act and unreasonable demands by some board members for privileges.”
Owasanoye commended the government’s posture against illicit financial flows.
Giving facts and figures of the commission’s Ethics Compliance scorecard of MDAs, Owasanoye said only 34. percent of the 360 establishments scaled above the average mark.
Ministry of Labour and Employment however clarified the allegation of illegal recruitment against it by the ICPC.
Deputy Director, Press and Public Relations of the ministry, Charles Akpan, said the minister, Dr. Chris Ngige, reported the matter when he was re-appointed in August 2019.
Akpan, in a statement, said: “There was 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 as the Hon. Minister of Labour and Employment in August 2019, 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 without ministerial and Head of Civil Service of the Federation approval.
“Unfortunately, the activities of the committee were stalled by the then Permanent Secretary who claimed that the ICPC has 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 since 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.”