…clashes with Faleke
The Minister for Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, Tuesday accused the suspended management of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) of awarding about 332 different contracts worth about N4.448 billion in one day, two days after he left office as minister in 2019.
Ngige who disclosed this in a presentation before the House of Representatives adhoc committee investigating arbitrary breach of presidential directives also said the suspended NSITF management committed about 74 different infractions for which they were suspended.
The minister told the Committee that the circular from the Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF) Office which he was accused of breaching talks about serious misconduct.
He maintained that some of the suspended officials will face disciplinary action and assured that the management Committee will be given fair hearing as:”suspension is not dismissal”.
Ngige also told the Committee that the suspension of the management had a presidential approval via letter REF:SGF/OP/1.S.3/T/163 dated 19 May 2020.
The former Anambra Governor listed some of the infractions committed by the management to include extra-budgetary spending, making payment for unapproved expenditure, over spending on administrative issues, irregular direct payment from the Employees Compensation Act, irregularities in staff group assurance policy and making payment for assurance policy without a policy cover.
He said: “the interesting thing is that both the Auditor General’s special periodic check report has been treated with levity especially in areas where the MD and the 3 Executive Directors had queries for bypassing issues of payments not authorized to themselves by extant circulars and their conditions of services .
“In 2018, I put up an Implementation Committee from the Ministry to implement both the Auditor Generals special periodic check and the report of the Administrative panel of Enquiry, headed by the then Permanent Secretary – Mrs. Ibukun Odusote.
“By the time she was redeployed from the Ministry of Labour and Employment in November 2018 to Ministry of Environment, my instructions on the implementation for the 2 reports on NSITF to the best of my knowledge did not receive attention from the NSITF Management.
“All attempts and directives to NSITF even at the Ministry Top Management with Parastatals to get the NSITF respond was futile, till we went for the General Election and I exited as Minister 29 May 2019 of course they celebrated the exit but all these were captured in my handover notes to the prospective “new Minister of Labour and Employment.
“To make matters worse, when I came back in 2019 August, reappointed as Minister of Labour and Employment, right from the 2020 Budget defence and their 2019 Budget performance I realised that instead of making amends from the earlier Auditor General’s report, matters have worsened therefore sought the help of the Auditor General of the Federation and the DG Public Procurement as there was a bazaar of NSITF contract documents being hawked at Wuse and Maitama Abuja for “prospective contractors” on payment of 25% of contract paper value.
“Even though the MD and ED Finance and Investment dodged and did not present a well articulated Budget 2020, the 2019 performance, the latter raised Red flags for all – starting with the 2 Committees of NASS on Labour, Employment and Productivity and the Auditors in the Ministry. Meanwhile the Special Periodic Check of 2018/2019 undertaken by the Auditors from AuFG later raised even worse infraction than the earlier ones in 2012 – 2017.
“Immediately these red flags were raised instructed them to halt all procurements for 2019 and payments of 2018/2019 that had not been done, pending the report of these checks. I brought this situation immediately to the attention of Mr. President because the MD and EDs claim they are “well connected politicians” and as such nothing will touch them hence, they ignored my directives during the Covid-19 and they went on to start payments for all forms of phoney contracts – some executed and some unexecuted.”
“The 2018/2019 Special Periodic Check/requested from the AuGF had thrown up more of these queries which they could not answer. A quick check revealed extra Budgetary expenditure as against the approved estimate of N1,019,360,520.90.
Payment of unapproved allowances – N118,779,632.40.
“Payment for vouchers not presented for Audit inspection (capital vouchers N300,898,994.30), Payment vouchers not posted to the cashbook – N884,701,789.72”.
Meanwhile, the Minister clashed with a member of the Committee, James Faleke (APC, Lagos) when he asked him to recuse himself from the sitting, alleging that Faleke has a ‘damaged reputation.”
However, the issue was resolved following intervention by the Chairman of the Committee, Miriam Onuoha and other members.
Faleke had in his contribution to a motion that informed the investigation alleged that the suspension of NSITF management was to allow the Minister have access to the budget of the agency in which he inserted about N2 billion projects and single handedly got his wife who work in the office of the Head of Service to sign a letter granting him permission to hire insurance brokers for the fund.