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BoI in trouble for illegal payment of N12.2m estacodes to minister, wife

By The Rainbow

complete violation of existing federal government directives, Bank of Industry (BoI) paid N12.206 million in estacodes to Minister of Industry Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah and his wife for a supposedly one-day meeting, which however never held.

The minister also allegedly influenced the appointment of his associate to the executive management cadre of the industrial bank.

InsideBusiness exclusively gathered that BoI violated two federal government rules on payment of sitting allowance to board members and also appointment of an executive director without the approval of the Head of Service of the federation.

The bank paid Enelamah and his wife for sitting allowance, estacodes, medical and travel allowances.

Reliable sources in the bank who disclosed this to InsideBusiness noted that the industrial bank treated the payment as sitting allowance to the minister as chairman at its meeting of April 8, 2016.

This, according to the sources, was a clear violation of Federal government circular dated April 8, 2016 from the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission which pegged sitting allowance of chairmen of committee or boards to N150,000 .

The circular also set the frequency of board and committee meetings to maximum of four in a year.

InsideBusiness further learnt that BoI, by the payment also violated an existing directive that government officials on monthly salary are not entitled to sitting allowance.

In the circular titled “Revised Frequency of Meetings for part time members of Government committees, boards of federal agencies, statutory corporations, and Government owned Companies” the commission also fixed N120,000 as sitting for committee and board members.

The circular referenced SWC/S/04/S.310/T/65 signed by the chairman, High Chief R.O Egbule was copied chief of staff to the president, deputy chief of staff to the president, ministers/ ministers of state/ Secretary to the Federal Government of the Federation/ Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Chairmen of federal commissions, Permanent secretaries, Clerk of the National Assembly, Secretary, National Judicial Council, Secretary, Federal Judicial Service Commission, Director-General and Chief Executives of Parastatals and Agencies, the Auditor-General for the Federation, and the Accountant-General of the Federation.

The circular read: “As part of the federal government's measures to reduce cost of governance in order to make more funds available for priority projects, government has approved the review of the frequency of meetings for part- time chairmen, and members of committees, boards of statutory corporation, agencies, and government owned companies”.

The circular categorizes those that are qualified for sitting allowances as well as revised frequency of meetings and the applicable sitting allowances to take effect from 1st April 2016.

For those in special category, the circular pegged the sitting allowance for chairmen at N150,000 per sitting while the members are to collect N120,000 per sitting and four sitting in a year.

For category A, the chairman is to collect N100,000 while members are to collect N75,000. Chairmen in Category B are to collect N85,000 and their members, N65,000. Members in category C will collect N55,000 while the chairman will collect N75,000.

For presidential committees which is rated Category D, the chairman is to collect N50,000 per meeting with a maximum set at four per month. Members in this category are to collect N40,000.

For those that are in government, the circular excludes them from such payment.

“It should be noted that Chief Executives officers and other public servants on monthly salary who are board members in their own establishments are not entitled to sitting allowance. It should also be noted that a sitting may comprise more than one meeting” the circular noted.

What makes the payment criminal for BoI was that the scheduled meeting which the money was intended did not hold according to a source in the Bank who confided in InsideBusiness.

“The April 8 meeting where the 2015 account was purportedly approved and which could have been the basis for the payment did not hold”, the source said.

InsideBusiness investigation however showed that the payment was actually for estacodes, flight allowance, and medical allowance to the minister and his wife on one of their trips outside the country.

The bank in its books however, treated the payment as sitting allowance for the chairman and also reported it on page 88 of its 2015 accounts in item 36 (B) under fees and other emoluments.

?”There was no increase in the chairman's emoluments, the amount disclosed relates to sitting allowance, emoluments, passage allowance(flight tickets), for him and his wife, estacodes for passage, medical allowance, estacodes for medical allowance, check-up and cost of medical treatment” noted Taiwo Kolawole, the Chief Finance Officer of BoI in one of the documents sighted by InsideBusiness.

A cabinet member whose opinion was sought on the payment decried such, noting that it was wrong for any cabinet member to collect money from parastatals or agencies in whatever guise.

“The ministry makes provision for the minister's trips and other needs. Under no circumstance must a minister takes money from the agency except there is an approval from the president”.

He explained that the agency has budget for its recurrent and capital projects which does not extend to the minister except there is an agreement between the agency and the ministry to borrow money.

“Collecting money from parastatals is not even right. It is the practice of some ministries to collect money from their agencies which it is not in order”.

Further investigation among staff of BoI shows that the minister was allegedly overbearing on the bank using one of his aides, Femi Edun to put pressure on the management.

“All the minister's personal expenses are on BoI and we even have a budget for him and his SAs, according to a staff of the bank who alleged that the bank had bought cars for all of them.

Further investigation by InsideBusiness also revealed that Enelamah had allegedly positioned one of his friends in BoI through which he allegedly plans to influence the disbursement of the N500 billion social intervention funds through which the federal government planned to create jobs and alleviate poverty.

Simon Aranonu, executive director, Large Enterprises, is allegedly a candidate of Enelamah whose employment, according to the staff of the bank, was shrouded in secrecy.

“Quite a lot of workers of the bank do not know him yet and his name has not featured on our website”, said a source in the bank.

Aranonu, formerly of the Intercontinental Bank Plc that was acquired by Access Bank, was interviewed by an acting director on a Thursday and resumed work the following Monday.

“BoI did not advertise for employment into the position and there was no vacancy declared. The bank did not even ask for exemption to employ,” disclosed a staff who said there must be a waiver before a government institution can employ with the current economic situation in the country.

“BoI did not get a waiver or exemption from Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment to employ Aranonu,” stated sources in the bank responding to InsideBusiness' enquiries.

This, the source said, is a violation of August 24 , 2016 circular from the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation which makes it mandatory for agencies and ministries to get approval to fill vacancies.

The Head of Service, Winifred Ekanem Oyo-Ita in the circular referenced HCSF/190/Vol.1/3 stated that some agencies have embarked on recruitment spree under various guises such as “replacement”, substitution, and outright fresh recruitment in total defiance of Public Service Rules 202205.

The HOS who warned that expenditure of such recruitment would no longer be accepted as proper charge to public expenditure noted that accounting officers/heads of MDAs will be personally held liable for the breach.

These developments have become worrisome to the presidency and is considering wielding the big stick against the management of the bank and those affected as part of measures to address the anomalies observed in the industrial bank.

The move which is to redirect the institution that is allegedly enmeshed in frauds,sources say, will be ahead of the injection of the N500 billion social intervention fund in the BoI.

President Muhammadu Buhari is said to be worried about the alleged high-scale fraud in the bank that is set up to champion the government's industrialization policy.

The mood among the president's team is that the bank, in its current mode, cannot efficiently lead the Federal Government's N500 billion social intervention programme in alleviating poverty and creating jobs for unemployed youths.

The programme contained in the 2016 Budget is designed to push Federal Government's policies in five key areas including job creation opportunities for 500,000 teachers and 100,000 artisans across the nation.

Also, 5.5 million children are to be provided with nutritious meals through the school feeding programme to improve learning outcomes, as well as enrollment and completion rates.

There is also the conditional cash transfer scheme which will provide financial support for up to one million vulnerable beneficiaries, and complement the enterprise programme which will target up to one million market women, 400,000 artisans and 200,000 agricultural workers.

[Inside Business]