Alleged N123b Fraud: Ex-Head of Service, Oronsaye, in soup!

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The Nigeria Liberty Forum, a United Kingdom-based pro-democracy group has requested the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to investigate Nigeria’s former Head of Service, Stephen Oronsaye, over alleged mismanagement of N123billion‎ during his reign.

This medium had on September 15, published an exclusive story on the damning audit report from the office of the Auditor General for the Federation in which Mr. Oronsaye was indicted over an alleged N123billion fraud between 2009 and 2010. In its petition, the UK-based pro-democracy group drew attention of the EFCC to some of the blatant misdeeds of Mr. Oronsaye and called for thorough investigation.

Quoting sumptuously from our report, the group sought investigation into the N52 billion unaccounted monthly pension payments, collection of N1.03 billion kickbacks from Pensions Union, cornering of N15.6 billion death benefit of pensioners and transfer of N54 billion from 58 untraceable illegal accounts.

“The said report has further buttressed need for thorough probe into the tenures of Mr. Oronsaye and other Former Heads of Service of the Federation,” the group’s Coordinator, Oluwakayode Ogundamisi, stated. “The Nigerian Liberty Forum recalls that Saharareprters had on November 26, 2013 reported that the EFCC has invited Mr. Oronsaye for questioning, based on his involvement in the Pension scam, since then nothing has been heard about the case.” The group made reference to the disclaimer which was published by the office of the Auditor General of the Federation on September 19, in some major newspapers in the country, claiming that no report ever indicted the former head of service.

It also referred to the response to the disclaimer in which PREMIUM TIMES did a follow-up story on September, 22, reaffirming its earlier story and publishing some section of the report. “NLF is greatly concerned by the EFCC’s deepening silence in the midst of these monumental fraud allegations, Mr. Ogundamisi said. “NLF wish to further request the commission to investigate the allege ownership of a multi billion naira Protea Hotel Asokoro by Mr. Oronsaye.

The said hotel is alleged to be owned by Mr. Oronsaye through a proxy. “We also tasked the commission to investigate how Mrs. Margaret Oronsaye owned another multi billion naira investment named Children’s Affairs, located in a primed area of Kolda Street Wuse II Abuja.” According to Mr. Ogundamisi, information available to his group shows that Mr. Oronsaye’s share of the pension loot is laundered through businesses mentioned in this report and other investments in real estates The group, therefore, drew EFCC’s attention to Section 27 of the EFCC Act. 2004, which provides that a person arrested for committing an offence under the Act shall make full disclosure of all assets and properties by completing the declaration of Assets form.

“NLF hereby calls on the EFCC, by the powers vested on the Commission under the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act 2004, to commence extensive investigation into these fresh allegations, and the extent of involvement of the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation, for necessary action, and make public its findings,” Mr. Ogundamisi said.

“Failure by the commission to act within reasonable time and speed, this forum will not hesitate to take her advocacy to the next level, in order to ensure justice for these ordinary retirees who are the primary victims of this ungodly act.” The group attached the complete report of the audit for reference by the anti-graft commission and also sought a formal acknowledgement of the receipt of its petition which was copied to stakeholder all over the world. Some of such stakeholders included the Governments of the United Kingdom, United States of America, France, Canada, Spain and South Africa. Reviewing the 169-page report, entitled “Special Audit of the Accounts of the Civil Pensions,” This paper had uncovered how Mr. Oronsaye was found to have allegedly presided over the looting of the nation’s resources during his tenure.

The audit by the Auditor General arose from the work of a Special Audit Team constituted by the Federal Government in May 2011 to conduct a comprehensive examination of the accounts of the Civilian Pension Department domiciled in the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation.

The audit, which covered the period 2005 to 2010, uncovered monumental financial irregularities, opaque transactions, irregular and abnormal running costs, and outright stealing and kick-backs said to have reached its zenith during the 18 months that Mr. Oronsaye served as Head of Service. The Auditor General’s office, insiders say, completed its assignment and submitted its report to government in 2012. But no action was taken to bring all those indicted to book.

This reporter learnt there was a high-level lobby at the highest reach of government to suppress the findings and allow those found culpable to enjoy their loot. But while allegations of massive corruption hang around his neck, Mr. Oronsaye remains very close to President Goodluck Jonathan and has unhindered access to the presidential villa.

Besides, the former head of service has consistently occupied some of the most important positions in the country. During the past 10 years, Mr. Oronsaye has served as Chairman of the Presidential Committee on Financial Action Task Force, FATF, and is board member of both the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, and the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, the two public organisations widely considered the most lucrative in the country. Although top government officials tried hard to suppress the damning report, This paper was able to scoop its content for its readers, in a story that was both shocking and mind-boggling. The report found that the pension payroll was never subjected to internal audit between June 2009 and December 2010; and that the over N52billion paid as monthly pension under Mr. Oronsaye’s reign remained largely unaccounted for.

The payments, auditors say, were not presented for internal and federal audits for prepayment audit as required by Nigerian financial regulation. The examination also documented evidence of payment for goods running into hundreds of millions of naira that were not supplied. For instance, about N700million was paid to 223 different contractors for store items. However, no payment vouchers were available for inspection as the investigators carried out their assignments.

The payments were also not recorded in the cashbook, leading auditors to conclude that since store receipt vouchers could not be traced, the items were most probably never supplied. Equally tainted with financial irregularities, the report says, was pension remittance to states and industrial unions during Mr. Oronsaye’s reign. A serious infraction was detected in the payment of N2.08billion check-off dues to the Nigerian Union of Pensioners in 2009 and 2010. When auditors computed and analyzed the figures in accordance with the mandatory one per cent deducted from statutory pension allocations, they found that N1.03bn was overpaid. The report alleged the amount was passed to Mr. Oronsaye as kickbacks.
The auditors also expressed shock at the absence of a single receipt from any state government acknowledging the payments purportedly made to them as five per cent federal government contribution and reimbursements. Consequently, there was no single shred of evidence to indicate that these remittances were actually made, the report said.

Even more damning was the revelation that the N15.6billion released by the Federal Government for the settlement of death benefits of deceased civil servants in July 2010 could not be accounted for. Checks by this newspaper suggested the money was moved to an illegal account in Federal Secretariat branch of Union Bank. The account, we learnt, was personally operated by Mr. Oronsaye and managed by his sister in-law. The funds, those who should know said, were placed in an interest-yielding account with the bank without any document to indicate how much was agreed upon as interests. Indeed, the report revealed the existence and operation of unauthorized accounts.

Between 2009 and 2010, 58 bank accounts were allegedly opened at the instance of Mr. Oronsaye without the knowledge and approval of the Accountant General of the Federation. Over N54 billion were transferred to these illegal accounts and eventually withdrawn for undisclosed purposes. The accounts had no cashbooks, payment vouchers, bank reconciliation statements, transcript or any evidence of expenditure returns.

Mr. Oronsaye later issued a statement, denying wrongdoing. “For the records, the major gap identified in the administration of civil service pensions when I came on board in 2009 was the lack of proper records,” the former head of service said. “My team and I made far reaching efforts to address this shortcoming through the physical verification and biometric capture of civilian pensioners across the 36 States of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) who retired from the Service before July 1, 2007.”

Culled from PREMIUM TIMES

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