[DETAILS] Fresh Corruption Allegations In NIPC Rip ICPC, Ministry

The Anti-Corruption and Transparency Unit (ACTU) of the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC) has asked the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Niyi Adebayo, to investigate the alleged corrupt financial transactions and violation of both the Public Procurement Act and the financial regulations of Nigeria by the executive secretary of the commission, Mrs .Saratu Umar.

In separate letters to ICPC and the minister, the chairman of the ACTU unit, Mr. Uchenna Okonkwo, alleged that Mrs. Umar illegally approved the payment of millions of naira to individuals’ accounts between the 29th and 31st of December 2022 without recourse to the rule of public finance management.

Recall that ACTU was established by the ICPC as one of the implementation mechanisms to achieve the mandate of the ICPC on the prohibition and prevention of corruption, especially in the public service.

LEADERSHIP gathered that supportive documents that were attached to the letters to both the ICPC and Minister Adebayo show how the sum of N5 million was paid directly into the personal account of Ag. depdirectorctof of, the state coordination department in the commission, Mr. Yusuf Mustapha, as an honorarium for the resource person for an event that was hastily arranged, but is yet to take place.

Mustapha is a former chairman of the staff union at the NIPC, whose tenure expired in July 2022, “however, because of his relationship with the current executive secretary, Mrs. Umar approved the said amount and specifically directed the funds to be paid to Mr. Mustapha’s account directly,” the head of the anti-corruption unit said in the petition with reference code: NIPC/001/C.500/III/(ACTU).

In the petition, Mrs. Umar reportedly added to his nomenclature the designation of Project Accountant II to make it look like a special project, knowing full well that the former director was not an accountant and cannot, therefore, be designated as one.

According to documents that were obtained by the Source, the executive secretary also approved the payment of the sum of N5 million into the personal account of a deputy director,o the general services department in the commission, Ms. Wange Dia, under the guise of advance payment to settle members of the press for the same event that is yet to take place.

Curiously, the petition pointed out, Ms. Dia is not in the press and protocol unit which is in charge of media and press matters in NIPC. So, handling media issues is completely outside
the schedule of duties. “This was deliberately assigned to Ms. Wange Dia for fraudulent purposes,” Okonkwo said in the petition to ICPC.

According to the petition, the payments are in contravention and violation of extant financial regulations, federal treasury circular on e-payment, and the public procurement Act which caps the amount payable to any public officer for procurement of goods and services at not more than N200,000.

Only recently, ICPC in its letter referenced ICPC/SSRD/EICS/AEI/147/04/2022 and dated December 12, 2022, classified NIPC as a high-corruption-risk MDA for non-compliance with the EICS and AEL, 2022, which the NIPC’s executive secretary was reportedly unrelenting in not endorsing.

According to the Extant Financial Regulations and Public Procurement Act 2007, payment for goods or services can only be made after the goods or services have been delivered/completed or services rendered by the terms and conditions of the signed contract.

Apart from that, the petition held, in obvious contravention of the public procurement Act and the NIPC Act, Ms. Umar went ahead to engage the services of an auditor to conduct a forensic audit of the books of the commission at the rate of N3.6 million, an amount over and above the amount the commission legitimately engages an external auditor as approved by the governing council and the Office of the Auditor-general of the Federation (AuGF).

LEADERSHIP learned that the power to engage an auditor lies with the governing council of the commission as contained in the NIPC Act, and in the absence of the governing council, the minister of Industries, Trade and Investment is the governing council.

The petition stated that there is no evidence to show that the minister approved the engagement of the external auditor.

In the letter, the ACTU head asked the ICPC to investigate the alleged fraudulent payment of N2,080,000 to the Institute of Directors of Nigeria as membership fees for Mrs. Saratu Umar.

The petition explained that the condition of service and federal treasury circular made provision for the payment of annual membership fees for staff to professional bodies like NBA, ICAN, ANAN, NSE, etc, not to bodies like the Institute of Directors.

In the eyes of Okonkwo, the Institute of Directors does not fall under the categories of professional bodies and the payment is on an annual basis not live membership. “As such, this payment violates the extant financial regulations, public service rules, federal treasury circular, and NIPC condition of service,” he stated.
According to official documents, between the 29th and 31st of December, not less than 10 procurement agreements were hastily drafted and signed under her watch. “These need to be investigated,” Okonkwo said.

The anti-corruption and transparency unit chairman also requested ICPC to investigate the re-engagement of Mr. Mutawalli Kukawa as a ‘technical support,’ to assist in repositioning NIPC shortly after he retired from the commission as a deputy director, an appointment that is considered a complete violation of guidelines on the engagement of contract staff.

An inside source told our correspondent that Kukawa had been put on a salary scale higher than that of the directors and allocated an official vehicle with a driver. Kukawa was an acting director, of the human resources department when Mrs. Umar had a brief stint in NIPC between 2014 and 2015 when she was sacked.

According to the petition letter to the minister of trade and industry, in his position as acting director of the human resources department and as a signatory to the commission’s pension account, Mr. Kukawa had illegally withdrawn over N9 million for which he was investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and was made to refund the said amount.

Meanwhile, copies of the approved memorandum of requests for N85 million each by Mr. Mustapha and Ms. Dia were attached to the petitions.


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