ICPC raids office of Nigeria’s surveyor-general enmeshed in corruption scandals

Surveyor-General of the Federation, Ebisintei Awudu. PHOTO CREDIT: Daily Trust]
Surveyor-General of the Federation, Ebisintei Awudu. PHOTO CREDIT: Daily Trust]

Operatives of Nigeria’s anti-graft agency, ICPC, on Wednesday, raided the office of Nigeria’s surveyor-general over suspected corrupt practices, including allegations of contract frauds and theft of public asset.

PREMIUM TIMES had in April reported how corruption allegations, including N1.4 billion suspected scam in one case and alleged theft of three vehicles in another, was raised against the surveyor-general, Ebisintei Awudu, and his office in various audit reports.

Mr Awudu at the time denied any wrongdoing but according to senior officials in the office and the audit reports, which we reviewed, Mr Awudu had allegedly entrenched culture of impunity in the office.

On Thursday, ICPC spokesperson, Rasheedat Okoduwa, confirmed to our reporter that her agency’s operatives raided Mr Awudu’s office.

”Yes we had an operation there on Wednesday, and we arrested some person, the action was in furtherance of an existing investigation,” she said, declining to provide more details of the person(s) arrested.”But whether the action has something to do with him (Mr Awudu) or not, personally I have no idea.”

She said Mr Awudu was not arrested.

We learnt that surveyor-general had left office before the raid. Also, operatives were said to have left with finance-related documents relevant to the allegations of fraud and theft of public asset in the office.

Mrs Okoduwa also told PREMIUM TIMES that Mr Awudu had been reporting at ICPC headquarters for questioning in the past.

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PREMIUM TIMES understands the allegations contained in the audit reports, which we exclusively reported, formed the basis of the action targeting Mr Awudu and his office.

N1.4 billion between January and June 2018

We reported in April that between January and June 2018, according to the audit inspection report on the surveyor-general’s office, questions of fraud raised by the auditor-general’s office involved a sum of N1.4 billion, including N725.8 million reported to have been paid to three companies within one week without any evidence of service or contract rendered.

The three companies included Altruinco services Ltd., F.A Kassim Survey Associates Ltd., and M. Yahaya and Associates. As presented in the table below, Altruinco was paid on March 22, 2018, F.A Kassim was paid in three transactions in one day, March 27, 2018, the same day M. Yahaya was paid in two different transactions, according to the report delivered in November 2018.

“After a careful examination of all the payment vouchers for the period that were presented for audit inspection, it was observed that the above-listed payments were made without raising any payment vouchers in violation of FR 601 which stipulated that ‘…under no circumstance shall a cheque be raised or cash paid for services of which a voucher has not been raised.’,” according to the audit inspection report.

“It was also observed, after careful examination of all contract files, contract award letters and other procurement records…, the (of the surveyor-general) made the payments to the contractors without awarding any contract, LPO or job order to them.

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“As a result, the contractors were paid for work/services not rendered to the office in violation of FR 708 which stipulates that ‘on no account should payment be made for services not yet performed or for goods not yet supplied.”

But apart from the N725 million “irregular” payments, also scandalous were observations on the cases of awarding contracts, again, to F.A Kassim and M. Yahaya. in violation of the country’s public procurement law.

In one case, N170 million contract for the acquisition of unmanned aerial system for surveying and mapping, including software (drone) training, was awarded to M. Yahaya and Associates instead of Quest Consolidated Ltd approved in the certificate of ‘no objection’ by the Bureau of Public Procurement. Even then, auditors reported that the surveyor-general’s office’s store ledger showed no record the equipment was received.

On a visit to the OSGF, an official close to Mr Awudu told this paper the drone was procured contrary to the question raised in the audit report and that it is being used for various operations, including aerial mapping of Katsina. We, however, did not sight the drone but were shown maps said to have been done using it.

Then, a N139 million contract was given to F.A Kassim for the acquisition of ‘state of the art server with customised software’ without the required due process certificate of ‘no objection’. There is no record of delivery in the store ledger, the auditors said.

An official close to Mr Awudu said the contracts were so handled because the nature of the contracts involved security and that the office was aware of the expertise of the firms awarded the contracts.

Missing vehicles

A separate report on vehicle inspection for the period of January and December 2018 revealed the “possible theft” of at least three vehicles, two of which were traced to Mr Awudu himself.

The two vehicles, Toyota Hilux (4×4) double cabin, were acquired for separate projects in Borno State and Ogun State. The contractors, M Yahaya and Quest Consolidated, were reported to have returned the vehicles upon completion of the projects.

However, according to the report, “during the physical inspection of all the vehicles belonging to the office, these particular vehicles were not presented for inspection. Further, enquiry from the transport unit revealed that the whereabouts of the vehicles are currently unknown.

“A review of available store records revealed that the vehicles were last issued to the surveyor-general of the federation.”

A culture of impunity

The latest 2018 reports were not the first to detail allegations of abuses against surveyor-general. A review of the preceding reports shows a pattern that stinks about an entrenched culture of corruption and abuses.

In the report for the period between January and December 2016, a N58 million contract for “acquisition and installation of the high precise (Trimble) geodetic continuously operation and reference station (COR) equipment with complete accessories” was reported to have been awarded to Mappigbiki Limited.

While a sum of N30.5 million was said to have paid to the contractor and the contract “certified fully executed,” the report stated that “a careful examination of the contract records” showed “that none of the equipment said to have been bought were taken on charge in the store ledger in violation of FR 2402(i).

“It was further observed that during the physical inspection of the project site by the auditors from the resident federal audit unit that no new equipment whatsoever was added or installed at the COR station. In the opinion of the auditors, there is nothing to on ground to justify that a sum of 58,117,686.50 was expended on the project.”

That 2016 report contained 20 cases of alleged abuse, including several millions of naira said to have been paid contractors without value for money.

The 2017 report was no different as it also detailed cases of alleged contract inflation, wrongful use of cash advances and so on.

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