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Leadership crisis, fraud rock fiscal commission

By Fidelis Mac-Leva & Abbas Jimoh on 02/10/2017

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•Fiscal Responsibility Commission Acting Chairman Victor Muruako
•Fiscal Responsibility Commission Acting Chairman Victor Muruako

The Fiscal Responsibility Commission (FRC) is presently enmeshed in numerous allegations of corruption levelled against Acting Chairman Victor Muruako by some workers, Daily Trust investigation revealed.

Muruako has been facing sundry allegations ranging from impersonation, corruption, fraud, sabotage, persistent breach of the Public Procurement Act 2007, impunity to abuse of office.

The Independent Corrupt Practices and other offences Commission (ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) are said to be investigating the allegations after receiving petitions from a staff of the agency.

When the tenure of the pioneer board of the commission ended on December 4, 2013, Muruako, hitherto a deputy director was said to have been appointed “to oversee the affairs of the commission pending the reconstitution of the board.”

Daily Trust learnt that no sooner was Muruako appointed in the January 2014 than re-designated himself as “acting chairman” and began to draw a monthly salary equivalent to that of a substantive executive chairman.

Concerned staff blow the whistle

Worried by this and other developments a group known as “Concerned Staff of FRC”, reportedly dispatched petitions to several government establishments against Muruako. One of the petitions sighted by Daily Trust dated May 29, 2017, was addressed to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and signed on behalf of the group by one Jonathan Yakubu. 

Copies of the petition were also sent to then Acting President Yemi Osinbajo; Director General, State Security Service; chairman, Senate Committee on Public Procurement/Due Process as well as the chairman, Public Complaints Commission.

In the petition, the workers said Muruako had not only been parading himself as chairman of the commission, but had also been signing official correspondences in that capacity and drawing all allowances equivalent to those associated to that office.

They alleged that since assumption of office, Muruako had perpetrated various abuses of the office, including recruitment of ghost workers and adding them on the commission’s payroll without following due process.

He was also accused of approving the payment of N4.2 million for the purchase of office equipment that were not captured in the inventory record of the Commission’s Stores Unit as of November 2015.

Other allegations included misappropriation of about N4.25 million allocated in the 2014 budget for research and studies, as well as legal purchase of computer systems for the Commission.

Also included in the petition was an allegation that Muruako was fond of using his office to intimidate other government agencies, by constituting illegal probe panels to investigate phantom petitions against them for alleged violation of the Fiscal Responsibility Act.

The staff cited the example of the Veterinary Council of Nigeria, whose registrar Muruako allegedly, wrote to in March 10, 2015, informing him of a petition he said the commission received against the council in respect of a breach of Public Service Rules, Financial Regulations and statutory provisions of the management of the institution.

Contrary to the mandate of the commission, the staff said, Muruako constituted an illegal audit committee headed by one of his allies, to audit the council’s financial accounts and documents without any official documentation of what transpired during such audit process.

He was equally alleged to have made false claims to the Finance Committee in the House of Representatives that about N25 million was spent on research and studies, purchase of office furniture, computers and printers, while another N5 million was spent in buying a 250KVA generator. 

Other alleged infractions in the petition against him included abuse of due process in the award of contracts, such as those for the purchase of refurbished generating set (N16.9 million), purchase of Nissan bus (N19.8 million), Nissan salon car (N10.5 million), computers and accessories (N9 million), printing of annual report (N9 million), and office furnishing (N6.7 million).

Daily Trust gathered that following the allegations contained in the petition, operatives of ICPC in July last year visited the commission headquarters in Abuja and carted away several volumes of files and official documents.

The spokesperson to ICPC, Rashidat Okoduwa, declined to give details on the matter, saying that the Act establishing the ICPC does not allow her to speak on petitions until investigations were concluded and referred to court.

Although the spokesman in the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mohammed T. Nakorji, told Daily Trust that he was not aware of the petition and was not in a position to comment on the non-reconstitution of the FRC board, a highly placed official in the SGF’s office said the petition had been submitted to the office.

The official who wouldn’t want his name in print as he was not authorised to speak on the matter said the SGF office was aware of the petition and that the relevant anti-corruption agencies (referring to the ICPC and EFCC) which the petition was originally addressed to were expected to act on it. 

The official also said that only the president can re-constitute the board adding that the acting chairman is in the good books of the powers that be in the Aso Rock Presidential Villa.

‘Petitioners not staff of commission’

When contacted on telephone, the acting chairman of the Fiscal Responsibility Commission, Muruako sent a text saying: “It is raining heavily here and network is very bad. You can come to the office tomorrow or within the week to verify.”

When our reporter went to his office, Muruako declined to speak on the matter, saying he doesn’t want to be engaged in media trials. When pressed further to respond in view of the weight of the allegations, he referred our reporter to his head of media, Mrs Akro Eunice, who simply said the signatory to the petition was fictitious and not a staff of the commission.

Commission without board for four years

Four years after the expiration of the tenure of the pioneer board of the Fiscal Responsibility Commission (FRC), a new board is yet to be reconstituted a development that has created the chasm between staff and the acting chairman and has continued to generate dust. 

The pioneer board of the commission was dissolved in December 2013, this was as the status of the commission remained unclear as the Federal Government had in April, 2014, accepted recommendation for its scrapping, along with the National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP).

The recommendation was among others contained in a Government White Paper of the Presidential Committee on the Restructuring and Rationalisation of Government Parastatals, Commissions and Agencies headed by the former Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Stephen Orosanye.

The report submitted on April 16, 2012, recommended the reduction of federal statutory agencies from 263 to 161.The Federal Government had accepted to scrap the FRC and directed the Attorney General of the Federation to initiate necessary action for the abolition and directed that the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, RMFAC, should perform the functions of the FRC. 

Although the white paper had directed that the enabling laws of RMFAC be amended to accommodate the functions of the FRC, the former has been functioning independently of the latter. (Daily Trust)

Source News Express

Posted 02/10/2017 1:17:02 PM

 

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