LARGE SCALE FRAUD ROCKS MINING AND GEOSCIENCES INSTITUTE

Allegations of graft, ranging from procurement fraud, overtime racket, to grand looting running into millions of naira, have hit at the Nigerian Institute of Mining and Geosciences (NIMG), Jos. Investigations by Daily Trust on Sunday reveal that the institute is enmeshed in a cesspool of corrupt practices, which have created a chasm between members of staff and management.KAYODE FAYEMI

The NIMG, which is the flagship organisation in the mining sector, was established in 2009 to provide the skilled manpower needed for the country’s solid minerals sector. The institute was expected to do this through the training and equipping of graduates from universities and polytechnics with the requisite skills for the industry.
But documents made available to Daily Trust on Sunday have revealed that cases of graft, involving overtime racket and phony contract awards allegedly used to siphon monies running into millions of naira, have culminated into a systemic rot at the NIMG.

Questions are being raised over financial recklessness, impunity and lack of accountability in the current management of the institute.

While petitions by aggrieved members of staff are said to have been forwarded to the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), some are calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to beam his anti-corruption searchlight on the ‘decay’ at the institute.

Questionable N32m promotion arrears
Although there has not been any promotion at the institute since its inception in 2009, our reporter gathered that the management of NIMG had, in 2014, collected a whooping sum of N32million in the name of promotion arrears, which was said to have been diverted. The amount was in respect of what was tagged promotion arrears batch 1, which was made in line with budget execution based on approval at pages 63-65 and 67 of file number: BD/2000/EXP/S.699, dated August 30, 2014.
A senior staff told our reporter that the only promotion that had taken place at the institute since its inception  was a “contrived regularisation exercise’’ carried out in December 2013 by a ‘cabal’ in the parent ministry. The exercise reportedly favoured only the current chief executive officer while the rest were demoted.
“All the pioneer members of staff had their provisional letters of appointment in 2012, with 2009 or 2010 as their effective dates of first appointment. But the contrived regularisation abandoned these letters and changed their dates of first appointments to 1st January, 2014, forcing the helpless staff members to lose four to five years of service,” the staff, who sought for identity protection for fear of victimisation said.
Some members of staff, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told Daily Trust on Sunday that they had not had their appointments confirmed, let alone enjoy any promotion. “As I speak with you now, our appointments have not been confirmed, let alone promotion. So we wonder what the management did with that huge amount collected in the name of promotion arrears,” a member of staff who wouldn’t want his name in print said.

N75m overtime racket
Overtime payments amounting to N75 million (more than 50 per cent of the institute’s annual personnel allocation) were said to have been made thrice in 2015 to about 137 members of staff out of 141. But they were allegedly directed to cash and return 60 per cent to 80 per cent of the amount through some people in the finance division.  The payment was said to have been made in February/March, May/June and October/November.
It was gathered that no overtime work at the institute within the period was commensurate with the amount involved. But to cover up the fraud, fake overtime forms were raised after the payments on the advice of some auditors. Checks by Daily Trust on Sunday show that there is a division among members of staff over the overtime funds. While some were in favour of it perhaps because of the percentages they were asked to retain, those who feel shortchanged are against it.
For refusing to return the amount expected from him, one of the affected staff member (names withheld), allegedly had his monthly salary withheld. The affected staff was said to have later petitioned the institute’s labour union, which subsequently waded into the matter, a development that was confirmed by the chairman of the institute’s Senior Staff Association, Raph Ogunsanya.
Daily Trust on Sunday gathered that other staff members, however, yielded to the deal by returning their percentages of the overtime payments through a staff in the Finance Department without documentation.
The secretary of the Senior Staff Association, Chris Ogoh, who also heads the public relations unit of the institute, confirmed the withholding of a staff member’s salary, but declined to speak on the controversial overtime payments.
Our reporter, however, obtained an extract from NIMG’s Ecobank statement showing staggering amounts that were paid into the accounts of individual members of staff as overtime on February 26, 2015. A scrutiny of the bank statement shows that 19 staff members were paid a total of N8, 654,572.96. Some of the staff who benefitted from the payment accused the management of diverting part of the money received as promotion arrears while shortchanging members of staff through contrived overtime payments that were covered through ‘fake’ forms.
“It would have been better for them to promote us. As we speak, we are still awaiting confirmation, not to talk of promotion. No member of staff has been promoted, yet they received money for promotion arrears, part of which they are trying to justify through this contrived overtime exercise,” a staff who sought for identity protection said.

Multi-million naira procurement fraud

It has also been alleged that procurement fraud is taking place at the NIMG through fake contract awards. To this end, documents are reportedly raised in arrears to obliterate the tracks of the deals. For instance, contracts for the printing of ‘security and non-security documents were said to have been contrived and awarded in two batches in 2015 alone, amounting to N3.6million (first batch) and N9.6 million (second batch) respectively. All relevant procurement documents were allegedly raised from within, and in a particular case, a supposed bidder could not be traced to the address on his documents.
The contracts were said to have been awarded without the consensus approval of the institute’s Tenders Board, which comprises all heads of departments, namely, Training/Research, Admin/Finance, and Extension Services with the procurement officer as secretary.
The deputy director, Admin/Finance, who chairs the Tenders Board, was said to have been sidelined in the tender’s approval; instead, his junior, who is an assistant director, was said to have been used.
To make the process look less suspicious, however, letters were said to have been written by the institute, requesting some proxy companies believed to have a vested interest to quote for ‘printing of security and non-security documents’ while the institute later settled for one of them.
The letters were sequel to an internal memo from the senior store officer with Ref: NIMG/P/P/023/2015, addressed to NIMG’s director/chief executive officer and dated February 18, 2015, which sought approval for the purchase of the documents.
Documents made available to Daily Trust on Sunday indicate that based on approval, letters were written to three firms, namely: 3T’s and Sons Nigeria Enterprises, which address was given as Flat 1 Block F1, Finance Estate, Wuye, Abuja; Amardam Integrated Services, which address was given as No 20, Boy Scout Shopping Complex, Kashim Ibrahim Street, Jos, and Z-Makwu Concept Enterprises, with address at No 10, Opposite Noble College, Angwan Dabba Bukuru, Jos.
After forwarding their individual quotations, a recommendation was made by the institute’s senior procurement officer, A.I. Adeosun, in favour of 3T’s and Sons Nigeria Enterprises, which was subsequently given the contract award via a letter dated March 19, 2015 at the cost of N9, 624, 370.00. The offer was sealed through an agreement dated March 30, 2015.
But a source told our reporter that controversy soon started trailing the propriety of the contract award even from within as the agreement became an issue of internal conflict. The institute’s legal adviser was said not to be involved in the preparation and signing of the agreement.
A copy of the agreement obtained by Daily Trust on Sunday indicated that it was signed by Dr. U.S Bamali on behalf of the NIMG and one Mr. Olabisi Victor on behalf of 3T’s and Sons Nigeria Enterprises. Contacted, however, the legal adviser declined comment, saying that as a civil servant she was not authorised to speak with the press.
Checks by Daily Trust on Sunday at Flat 1, Block F1, Finance Estate, Wuye, Abuja, revealed that the place is a residential address and does not belong to any company. Even the telephone number: 08058112262, provided on the letterhead paper used in writing quotation for the printing of security and non-security documents to the NIMG, Jos, was discovered to belong to an individual. When our reporter dialed the number, the respondent, who wouldn’t disclose his identity, denied knowledge of any company called 3T’s and Sons Nigeria Enterprises, saying: “Don’t mind them, they are fraudsters.”
A dissatisfied management staff, who questioned the propriety of the contract, asked: “Is it not ironic that such contracts could be awarded in a very small institute with less than 150 personnel and practically zero activity?”
Also called to question is a constituency project worth N150 million, which was allegedly handled by the NIMG in 2014. The contract, meant for the provision of potable water boreholes in Itas-Gadau Local Government Area of Bauchi State, was said to have been smuggled into the budget of the institute from the National Assembly during the last administration, but allegedly abandoned.
An insider at the institute told our reporter that following the abandonment, auditors from the accountant-general’s office scheduled to visit and audit the project, were frustrated with threats of Boko Haram even as a request by the NIMG management team to visit and witness the progress of work was also said to have been resisted by the director/ chief executive officer, Engr. Saidu Umar Bamali.
The internally generated revenue of the institute has also been allegedly tampered with. A senior member of staff said that out of N17 million that accrued from a training conducted in Kano in April 2014, more than N5 million went to personal pockets, while the federal government got less than N1 million. The account of a close ally of the chief executive officer, Balarabe Garba – Guaranty Trust Bank (GTBank): 0021607906 – was allegedly used to collect all monies returned by staff members who had been given certain amounts for specific jobs.
The proposal to the Kano State government for the training, tagged: “Training of youths on cutting and polishing of gemstone,” was given an executive approval through a letter with Ref: SAMS/GEN/TRG/CPG/48/V.I/9 and signed by Balarabe Ibrahim Ahmed, special adviser on solid minerals to the then Kano State governor.
But while less than N250, 000 was said to have been spent in securing the venue for the workshop, the sum of N2.6 million, out of N2.3 million allotted for hiring of venue, was allegedly transferred to Garba. Several other such transfers were allegedly made to the same person, which amounted to more than N5 million, while original recipients of the sums were allegedly directed to source receipts and retire the monies.
Consequently, the Department of Training, headed by one Gilbert Tsaro, was said to have been aggrieved for being sidelined from the Kano training, which was said to have been assigned to Garba to supervise and manage the accruing revenue. It was gathered that in the 2016 budget, about N160 million had been earmarked for the institute to procure training equipment.
Daily Trust on Sunday gathered that the NIMG currently lacks a functional website, a fact that was reportedly acknowledged during a visit by the current minister, Dr. Kayode Fayemi. This is even as the bill for the establishment of the institute, tagged: The National Institute of Mining and Geosciences, Jos, Draft Bill 2009, which was approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) in 2009, is yet to be sent to the National Assembly for consideration.
The bill was said to have been withdrawn and reviewed by the current administration, but is yet to be forwarded to the FEC, let alone the National Assembly. This has raised fears over the fate of the institute as another bill for the establishment of a similar institute in one of the states in the South-South is said to be currently receiving attention at the National Assembly.

NIMG fails to respond to allegations
Several attempts to get the management of the NIMG to respond to these allegations failed, as both the director/chief executive officer and the public relations unit refused to speak. When our reporter first contacted him on telephone, the director, Engr. Saidu Umar Bamali said: “I am not authorised to speak with the media until I get clearance from my ministry,’’ the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development.
When he was contacted a week later on whether he had received the clearance, he said: “I have told you I am not authorised to speak with journalists,” and ended the call.
Similarly, the deputy head of the Public Relations Unit, Oscarline O, who speaks on behalf of the director, declined to comment, saying he would only do so with clearance from his boss.
Read more at http://www.dailytrust.com.ng/news/general/multi-million-naira-scam-rocks-jos-mining-institute/158116.html#dQo2LDMPFbMu5sMd.99

Related posts