Fraud in Abia civil service: EFCC quizzes finance commissioner
Chinwe Ugele, Umuahia
The much celebrated staff verification in Abia state civil service a few years ago, may have come to nought with the magnitude of fraud reportedly going on within the service.
The state government announced its resolve to drastically reduce the wage bill of the state which was believed to be usually high through the use of biometrics to identify every staff with a particular bank account.
Even some ministries Like that of Local Government and Chieftancy Affairs under the watch of Chief Charles Ogbonna carried out a verification exercise of his workers and was largely successful with the inconsistencies it discovered in the paper qualifications and posting of staff.
The exercise had revealed that some civil servants in the state were receiving double or even triple salaries every month from two or more ministries and agencies of the state.
However, their findings and recommendations were never implemented, as the state government decided to set them aside and please it’s cronies and friends affected by that verification exercise.
Recently, some civil servants of Abia state began complaining about how they were receiving higher salaries than their original pay check and how some of the cashiers would always call their lines and ask them to return the cash to them, while underpaying others who she considered threats to her such as the petitioner.
This to even a layman is a clear case of fraud going on in the state service with the perpetrators smiling to the banks every month while some workers in the state pray to be paid their arrears of salaries by government.
She was reportedly bragging about how no one was capable of stopping or punishing her as she was an “anointed” of the government.
Apparently disturbed by the activities of some of the staff identified, a commissioner in the state’s civil service and a lawyer petitioned the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) to investigate the duo of one Charity Ukonu and his son Chinenye over allegations of fraud.
Below is the petition
“The Zonal Head,
Economic and Financial Crimes Commission,
A CASE OF FRAUD AND STEALING OF STATE/PUBLIC FUNDS BY MRS. CHARITY N. UKONU AND MR.CHINENYE V. UKONU; CIVIL SERVANTS AND STAFF OF STATE AUDIT DEPARTMENT AND BUREAU OF STATISTICS OF ABIA STATE CIVIL SERVICE RESPECTIVELY
WHEREAS I am a lawyer by calling and serving Commissioner (Commissioner 1) in the Abia State Civil Service Commission. As a sworn officer of the State, I took oath to among other things, carry out my duties in the interest of the sovereignty, integrity, well-being and prosperity of the State. As a State Commissioner, one of my primary duties is discipline of erring civil servants which in ordinary interpretation means checking the excesses of civil servants no matter the rank.
In trying to carry out this legitimate duty charged on me by the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria and upon receiving several complaints from various civil servants against one Mrs. Charity Ukonu of the Audit Department of the Abia State Civil Service who uses her office as a member of a purported State Salary Enhancement and Audit Committee to defraud, embezzle and to steal monies from the State/Public funds designated for salaries. This she does by making spurious inclusions to salaries of her proxies and cronies who make returns of the surplus of the salaries to her.
My shallow observation and investigation into Mrs. Charity Ukonus stealing and embezzling activities reveals that Mrs. Charity Ukonu payrolls herself and receives double and/or multiple salaries from Abia State Government in various ministries and departments.
Below is an expression and little revelation of a few instances how Charity N. Ukonu payrolls herself and/or receives double salaries with two different banks/account details viz: ZENITH BANK ACC NO: 2001052262 and STERLING BANK ACC. NO: 0020634826.
1. 15/2/2016 January Salary (State audit) N 152,853.83 ZENITH
20/2/2016 January Salary (Min. of Agric) 23,889.75 STERLING
2. 29/3/2016 Feb. Salary (State audit) N 157,353.83 ZENITH
07/4/2016 Feb. Salary (Min. of Works) N 66,839.75 STERLING
3. 11/5/2016 March Salary (State audit) 150,590.43 ZENITH
13/5/2016 March Salary (Min. of Pub. Utility) 22,389.75 STERLING
4. 14/7/2016 March Salary (State audit) 179,020.49 ZENITH
09/6/2016 March Salary again (ADP) 500,079.50 STERLING
On the same 09/06/2016 Mrs. Charity Ukonu as a civil servant received a huge and questionable sum of N 2,050,000.00 (Two million and fifty thousand naira) from some person who I guess is her ally in the government as her shear of their loot and another sum of N 5,000,000.00(five million naira) both huge sums in her Sterling Bank Account No. 0020634826.
It may please you and also interest you to know that the said Charity Ukonu is but a mere civil servant on Salary Grade Level (SGL) 14 whose monthly take-home pay is about N 80,000.00. I attach herewith a copy of query as Exhibit A from the office of The Auditor General of the State on why Charity and cohorts are making such unauthorized inclusions and padding of certain persons salaries to the tune that becomes more than 100% the due salary. A careful perusal on the said Exhibit A Nos 25 reveals that Charity payrolls herself and receives N 180,089.00 as gross while the gross due is N 80,089.00.
One of Charity Ukonus identified co-conspirators, cronies and/or proxy is one Mr. Chinenye Victor Ukonu who in connivance and conspiracy with Mrs. Charity Ukonu also receives double salaries from Abia State Government establishments from July 2015 but with more particular emphasis from September 2016 the government establishments/agencies are Ministry of Health and Bureau of Statistics. Whereas this said Mr. Chinenye Ukonu is strongly believed to be the son of Mrs. Charity Ukonu. While Chinenye Ukonu receives salaries from Ministry of Health through his Zenith Bank Acc. No. 2003083738, he equally receives salaries from Bureau of Statistics through his First Bank Acc. No. 3070212117.
A careful and more detailed inquiry into the statement of account of the four different Bank Accounts operated by the duo of Mrs. Charity Ukonu and Mr.Chinenye Ukonu between July 2015 and December 2017 would reveal more of dirty and questionable transactions therein.
Whereas upon confrontations on why such reckless financial activities were being carried on by her, Charity Ukonu called my bluff and boasted before me and to my face that I can go to hell. That she can chose to pay anybody even myself in the manner she chooses to and nothing will happen.
To give life to her threats Mrs. Charity Ukonu stopped paying my salaries for months even as a serving Commisioner in the state. And when she decided to pay me she paid me less than 30% of my pay. All my attempts to get me full pay for about 3 years now has yielded no success. This is in line with all her threats. Nobody controls her when it comes to Abia State finances.
All the aforestated boastings, threats and actions left me dumb. But I know that it is not the EFCC of the present administration, it may be of the past. And I know also that receiving double or multiple salaries from one government whether of the State or the Federation and padding or inclusions is one of the most abhorred financial crimes known to our laws.
Sir, having exhausted several means of trying to call Mrs. Charity N. Ukonu to order or check her excesses, like bringing complaints personally to the Commissioner for Finance, officially bringing complaints to the Chairman and fellow members of the Abia State Civil Service Commission, bringing complaints to the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Finance, and even complaining to the office of the Auditor General of the State and all of which complaints yielded no positive outcome. All of whom confirm that Charity Ukonu is out of control and this makes me afraid of her boasts.
I therefore bring this case of stealing and embezzlement to your office knowing that you work with integrity and without fear or favour. I know also that your office has done everything to show that you cannot be compromised. I crave you therefore, to use your good offices to do a careful and thorough investigation with the facts I have hereinabove presented to you including the documents herein attached and the quoted bank account statements of the duo of Mrs. Charity N. Ukonu and Mr. Chinenye V. Ukonu. Your deep and thorough investigation shall reveal more.
Barr. Guy Chigoziri Okite (LL.B., B.L., LL.M.)
AS FORWARDED BY THE STATE COMMISSIONER FOR INFORMATION
The commissioner of Finance in the state, Mr. Obinna Oriaku was invited by the EFCC to obviously say what he knew about the goings on as regards salary payments as well as the affected persons.
Abia state government has denied the involvement of the commissioner who it said only honoured the invitation by the anti graft commission and has since resumed his duties.
In a state where some workers in the public service are owed several months of arrears of salaries, owing to “paucity” of funds, one wonders the justification for allowing evil to thrive as exhibited by some greedy workers.
Abia state government, according to the commissioner for Information, Mr. John Okiyi expects the EFCC to do needful in this matter.
On the other hand, there is need for government to revisit the biometrics and verification of staff it conducted a few years ago to avoid encouraging more staff from engaging in such fraudulent activities.