PPPRA officials in N3.5bn fraud

PPPRA30 October 2013, Abuja – The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) has summoned top management officials of the Petroleum and Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) over an alleged N3.5billion fraud in the Petroleum Support Scheme (PSF).

The invitation followed a petition by a Port Harcourt-based petroleum products marketer, Ledisi Dagogo-Jack.

In a petition dated August 13, 2013, Dagogo-Jack requested the ICPC to, among others, investigate the Executive Secretary of the PPPRA, Reginald Stanley; the Assistant General Manager (Finance), Peter Tokan; the Internal Auditor, Dominic Aniemeke, on their culpability in alleged fraudulent acts involving petroleum products surveys at the country’s ports.

In addition, the petroleum products marketer also want the Personal Assistant to the Executive Secretary, PPPRA, Farouk Mohammed, probed along with two other aides, Gaji Mohammed and Hussaina Modibbo (Technical Assistant) over their roles in the alleged illegal award and execution of multi-million naira contracts involving two suspected unregistered companies, Busihfer Nigeria Limited and Ashmos Global Services.

According to an online news medium, Preminum Times, the accused persons were expected to appear before the ICPC at its Abuja headquarters along with the General Manager (Operations), Wole Adamolekun; Internal Auditor, Dominic Aniemeke and one John Egundebi, who were accused of complicity in the alleged fraudulent acts involving the agency’s pension funds and tax returns on its pay-as-you-earn (PAYE) system.

In his petition, Dagogo-Jack said he was in possession of evidences of fraud committed under Stanley’s watch, in connivance with Tokan, which contravened the provisions of the public service financial rules and regulations.
“I believe that the management of the PPPRA has a case of corruption to answer,” he said. “I plead that you use your goodwill, exposure and credible anti-corruption platform to effect a thorough investigation of the financial dealings in the agency and rid the public sector of the monster of corruption.”

In one of the cases, Dagodo-Jack named five independent inspectorate firms (GMO, Saybolt, Inspectorate, SGS and Vibrant Ventures Limited) reportedly hired by the executive secretary on assumption of office in November 2011, allegedly to sideline the Inspectorate Department of PPPRA charged with the responsibility of ensuring quality control, haulage and survey of petroleum products under the PSF.

He said contrary to the monthly commission of N5million to each of the inspectorate firms usually paid by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) subsidiary, Pipelines and Products Marketing Company (PPMC), for products surveys at the ports, the PPPRA has, since 2011, been disbursing N70 million monthly to each of the five firms, resulting in the accumulated disbursement of about N3.5billion so far.

In another case, the petitioner accused Gaji Muhammad of overreaching his official powers by approving the contract for the supply and installation of computer accessories worth more than N23million to external suppliers without due process, in disregard of the Public Procurement Act.

Apart from exceeding the N2.5million approval limit for external contracts, the petitioner said the award to three companies, endorsed solely by Muhammad, ignored normal tendering processes, as they were not supported by letters of no objection, advertorial and technical bid processes.

Similarly, Dagogo-Jack accused the Personal Assistant to the Executive Secretary, Farouk Mohammed, of using two unregistered companies, Busihfer Nigeria Ltd. and Ashmos Global Services, allegedly linked to him, to award himself phony contracts worth several millions of naira.

He accused the PPPRA management of flouting laid down financial regulations by placing two of its accounts in United Bank for Africa (UBA) and Zenith Bank on fixed deposits, with Modibbo, Technical Assistant to the Executive Secretary, who is a Level 13 officer, as one of the signatories contrary to extant financial rules and regulations.

The provisions of the financial rules and regulations requires the head of the Accounts department, not lower than an Assistant Director, to be signatory to the agency’s accounts.

But it was gathered that Modibbo, was only a Level 12 officer when she, along with Muhammed, were drafted to the PPPRA on secondment from NNPC, following Stanley’s redeployment from the NNPC, from where he served, first, as Managing Director of PPMC, and later, Group General Manager in charge of New Business Development Division.

Apart from drawing monthly salaries from the NNPC, Modibbo and Muhammad, were said to equally earn stipends of about N500,000 as aides to the Executive Secretary, PPPRA, in addition to four different allowances totalling N6 million per annum, the petitioner said.
Stanley could not be reached for comment as he was said to have travelled out of the country.

But Adamolekun, who confirmed the invitation by the commission, however, denied seeing a copy of the petition and the issues raised by the petitioner.

However, when a britef on some of the issues was provided, Adamolekun dismissed any possibility of fraud involving the PSF, as the PPPRA did not handle monies under the scheme, adding that the agency would react fully to the issues after the meeting with the commission.

“Anything about PSF, we cannot talk about fraud here. It is not possible, because PPPRA does not handle money in the transactions. The responsibility for payments is with the Ministry of Finance,” he said.

On the appointment of five firms to handle the inspectorate services for the agency, Adamolekun said those independent inspectors were internationally licensed to provide such services, adding that not many of them were available in Nigeria.

“We (Nigeria) do not have those types of internationally certified persons around to handle the certification of petroleum products that can be tendered in any court all over the world. Whatever the independent inspectors say is what holds. But, I am sure at the end of the day, there would not any substance in all this,” he said.

He described the staff of the inspectorate department of the PPPRA as mere witnesses, who are neither trained nor licensed to do the certification job.

“They are there at the various depots to capture data for the government. But, in the event of dispute on the quality or volume of products imported, those data cannot be tendered in court,” he said.

– This Day

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