The assistant to the Delta Governor on ICT was arrested by the police over the multi billion naira scam rocking the state’s payroll.
An aide to Governor Emmanuel Uduaghanthe of Delta was arrested in Asaba, the Delta state capital, on Sunday for allegedly defrauding the government of billions of naira through the biometric update and automation of the state’s payroll.
PREMIUM TIMES reliably learnt that the governor’s Senior Special Assistant on Information Technology (IT), Harold Monu, was picked up by men of the anti-fraud unit of the Delta State Police Command as he returned from London, where he had gone for holiday.
Also reportedly arrested over the matter was a Personal Assistant to Mr. Monu, whose name was given as Maha.
Curiously on Tuesday the Secretary to the State Government, Ovuozourie Macaulay, personally bailed him from police custody.
In 2009, the state government had embarked on the automation of its payroll with biometric capabilities. The exercise, amongst other things, was meant to “ensure that only legitimate employees receive salaries from the State.”
As an assistant on IT to the governor, Mr. Monu was put in charge of the payroll automation and biometric system. However, like a mutating virus, the problem worsened under his watch.
In 2012 the state discovered over 7,000 ghost workers on its payroll. Also, in July this year, another 23,000 ghost workers were discovered across various parastatals. The state’s wage bill also shot up from N6.5 billion a month to N7.1 billion. The state lost Over N800 million monthly to ghost workers.
Although there have been talks of fraud in the automated payroll system, the strongest signal that Mr. Monu might be involved in the scam occurred last February when the government announced the suspension of the e-payment model and reverted to a hands-on system of paying workers in cash upon physical identification.
The governor told reporters that the state was forced to adopt this medium of payment because the automation system was replete with corruption and had failed to check ghost workers.
“It is obvious that there are still many ghost workers in the state, especially among teachers. From this January, salaries are going to be paid on the basis of physical presence of a worker,” Mr Uduaghan had said.
Contacted on Thursday, Mr. Monu declined comment on his arrest and the corruption rocking the state’s payroll.
“Go and meet the commissioner of information if you want any information, thank you,” he told PREMIUM TIMES on telephone.
Following the bail of Mr. Monu by Mr Macaulay, activists and high-placed sources within the Delta state government fear the matter might be treated as an in-house matter and subsequently swept under the carpet.
The Delta State commissioner for information, Chike Ogeah and the SSG, Mr. Macaulay, did not answer or return repeated calls to their telephones. They also did not respond to text messages sent to them.
The Delta state command of the Nigeria Police also wouldn’t provide details of Mr. Monu’s arrest and the ongoing investigation.
After repeated promises over a period of more than 24 hours, the command’s Public Relation Officer, Lucky Uyabeme, told PREMIUM TIMES investigators in charge of the case were yet to brief him on the matter.
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