Faults ASUU on IPPIS
Profiles 2000 firms involved in constituency project scam
By Soni Daniel & Ikechukwu Nnochiri – Abuja
The Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission, ICPC, on Thursday, said it arrested and grilled 59 Federal Directors over their alleged complicity in the illegal transfer and diversion of N3billion appropriated for the payment of salaries, using names of ghost workers.
Chairman of the Commission, Prof. Bolaji Owosanonye, who made the disclosure to newsmen in Abuja, said some of the illegally diverted funds had since been recovered and plowed back into the coffers of the Federal Government.
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He said an investigation by the anti-corruption agency revealed that most Ministries, Departments, and Agencies of the government were involved in the illegal transfer of funds already budgeted to them, to other things.
Consequently, he said the ICPC under his watch has adopted a three-pronged strategy that would ensure effective tracking and monitoring of funds that are allocated to various government establishments, working in synergy with the Budget Office, the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.
Prof. Owosanonye identified the introduction of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System, IPPIS, as a veritable digital tool that will help the federal government to check the level of fraud in the system, even as he faulted the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, for resisting attempt to enroll its members in the scheme.
He said the ICPC had last month, restrained relevant financial regulatory agencies in the country from releasing about N9.2billion it discovered were part of excess funds that were found in accounts of some MDAs.
“I can tell you authoritatively that there is still budget padding. This is basically owing to the weakness in the oversight system. As at this morning, we also restrained another N3billion”, he added.
He said the Commission directed that the affected establishments should not be allowed access to the funds, saying “this is because as we all know, we are at the end of the year and a lot of things happen”.
He said the ICPC would soon offer suggestions on how best FG could tackle the menace of illegal diversion of public funds by top government officials.
Besides, the ICPC boss said the Commission would by next week, release the outcome of its Phase 1 report of constituency tracking projects tracking exercise it recently undertook in 12 states of the federation.
He decried that since the year 2000, over 2 trillion was spent on constituency projects without commensurate development at the grass-root level.
According to Prof. Owosanonye, following the constituency tracking exercise the ICPC launched on April 2, it was discovered that so many federal lawmakers pocketed funds they collected to provide social amenities to their constituents.
He said in some instance, it was found that some of the lawmakers channeled to assuage their personal needs, with some of the sitting projects meant for their constituency in their personal land.
The ICPC Chairman noted that though the Commission initially planned to investigate about 100 projects in the 12 states that were spread across the six geo-political zones of the country, it eventually investigated 400 projects in the selected states.
He gave names of the states involved in the first phase of the inspection exercise as Enugu, Adamawa, Bauchi, Aka Ibom, Benue, Imo, Lagos, Sokoto, Osun, Edo, and Kogi.
According to him, while some of the projects the Commission met on the ground differed from what was originally approved, it was found that some of the lawmakers outrightly diverted funds earmarked to them for their constitutional projects.
Stressing that while some of them were forced to distribute items they initially refused to distribute to their constituents, including transformers, others were compelled to restitute constituency project funds they surreptitiously diverted to their personal use.
More so, Prof. Owosanonye disclosed that over 2000 companies that were involved in various constituency projects were identified, with 317 of them profiled and sent to the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS.
“Some of the lawmakers are already paying back to the Federal Government funds they collected for constituency projects, while some contractors have quickly mobilized to site after they found out that we were investigating them”, he added, bemoaning however that it would be difficult for the ICPC to track funds that were diverted in the guise that it was used for “Capacity building and Empowerment”.
Despite the level of fraud perpetrated in the name of constituency projects, Prof. Owosanonye said he would not call for its abolishment, saying “it is aimed to breach equitable distribution of social amenities”.
“Constituency project is good, but the gap is in the delivery. So I am not on a mission to ask that it should be scrapped”, the ICPC boss added.
He said he had upon assuming headship of the anti-graft agency, decided that it was better to pursue a strategy that would lead to quicker recovery of stolen funds, rather than to embark of prolonged litigations.
“Recovery based approach is more impactful and cost-effective”, he added, lamenting that cases drag for years in court before any meaningful recovery could be made.
Likewise, ahead of the Kogi and Bayelsa governorship elections billed for Saturday, he said the ICPC would collaborate with the Independent National Electoral Commission, ICPC, to monitor those that would engage in vote-buying.