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257 projects worth N20bn duplicated in 2021 budget – ICPC

Chairman, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, Bolaji Owasanoye, on Tuesday, said the review of the 2021 budget revealed that 257 projects amounting…

Chairman, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, Bolaji Owasanoye, on Tuesday, said the review of the 2021 budget revealed that 257 projects amounting to N20.138bn were duplicated. 

He spoke at the third national summit on Diminishing Corruption in Public Sector, themed ‘Corruption and Cost of Government New Imperatives for Fiscal Transparency’.

He said the commission also uncovered a syndicate of corrupt individuals within the service corruptly employing unsuspecting Nigerians, issuing them fake letters of employment, fraudulently enrolling them on IPPIS and posting them to equally unsuspecting MDAs to commence work. 

He said the commission was prosecuting one of the leaders of the syndicate from whose custody led to the retrieval of several fake letters of recommendation purportedly signed by the Chief of Staff to the President, ministers, Federal Civil Service Commission and other high-ranking Nigerians.

He said: “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 complicity of compromised elements in IPPIS.”

He presented the winners of the 2021 ICPC Public Service Integrity Awards. They were Muhammad Ahmad of NDLEA and Nelson Okoronkwo of the Ministry of Information and Ikenna Nweke, a Nigerian student in Japan appointed pioneer ICPC Citizen Anti-Corruption Volunteer Group Icon for his exemplary act of integrity of finding and returning intact a wallet containing substantial sums of money despite his impecunious state as a student.  

Speaking at the event, President Muhammadu Buhari vowed to sanction heads of MDAs that fraudulently presented new projects as ongoing projects in the budget.

He said those who brought in personnel into the public workforce by illegal recruitment, padded their payroll and retained ghost workers would be sanctioned.

 He said his government had noted from the activities of the ICPC that some MDAs had devised the fraudulent practice of presenting new projects as ongoing projects.

Meanwhile, the spokesman of the Ministry of Labour, Charlse Akpan, in a statement yesterday, said 752 senior and 532 junior staff members were illegally recruited in the ministry in 2019 when the minister, Chris Ngige, was temporarily out of office.

He stated: “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 was temporarily out of office.

“However, upon reappointment 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.”

He said the minister subsequently empaneled an internal investigative committee 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’s approval as stipulated in the extant circular on recruitment.

“Unfortunately, the activities of the committee was 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.

“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,’’ he added.

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