$1.7m fraud: ICPC quizzes Anambra govt officials

  • Monday, June 30, 2008 - By GEOFFREY ANYANWU, Awka
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The Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) has quizzed some officials of Anambra State government, including the Head of Service (HOS), Mrs. Ngozi Melifonwu over their roles in the alleged misappropriation of about $1.7 million.

The money is part of US $5 million World Bank Fund meant for execution of health systems projects in the state between 2003 and 2005.
Invited with Melifonwu who was the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health during the time of the alleged fraud, are the Permanent Secretary Government, Mr. Okey Nwabachili who was the Director of Planning, Research and Statistics in the Health Ministry then, Mr. Mike Anierobi, the Head Project, Financial Management Unit, and Mr F. U. Onuchukwu, Project Accountant.

Others said to have been invited by the ICPC include, Mr. Christopher Nwachukwu who was the then Project Accountant, Mr. F. U. Onuchukwu, the Project Accountant, Mr F. C. Unachukwu, chairman of the Audit Committee panel set up by the state government, Mr. Jude Umeh, member of the Committee and Mr. C. N. Osisioma, former Project Procurement Office.
In the ICPC letter dated March 11, 2008, the invitation of the officials was said to be for the purpose of assisting the commission in the investigation of a petition relating to the matter.
They were asked to produce the Report on the World Bank Project II, during or within 2003 and 2005, and any other relevant information that would assist the commission.

In another letter to the Commissioner for Health signed by Mr. M. O. Omanu, a Permanent Secretary in the office of the Secretary to the State Government, (SSG) said, “I am directed to forward herewith a copy of letter from ICPC demanding some documents from the Ministry concerning illegal case of misappropriation of government funds between 2003 and 2005; and another copy listing government officials invited for interaction.
“A letter each inviting Internal Auditor and Project Accountant of the Ministry are attached for delivery to them.”

Though the affected officers were said to have visited the ICPC and stated in writing what they knew about the fraud, it was not yet clear who the petitioner was.
But Daily Sun investigation revealed that the former Governor of the State, Dr. Chris Ngige set up a panel in January 2005, to investigate the fraud when the matter came up, and that the three-man Audit Committee was headed by Mr. Unachukwu.

It was also gathered that the committee completed its work within the three months given to it and submitted its report to the then Permanent Secretary, now the HOS. Their report was not released until the second half of 2007 when a staffer of the ministry petitioned the governor.
Sources close to the ministry said that the delay in releasing the report of the audit panel for about two years caused the state some assistance from the World Bank in health, water and sanitation programmes before the Governor Peter Obi administration corrected the anomaly.
Meanwhile, there are apprehensions in the state following the delay of the ICPC in releasing its report on the investigation.

When newsmen called a staffer of the Special Duties Department of the commission, Mr. Wale Adenuga, he confirmed that the commission was still handling the matter.

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