The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) detectives have grilled a former Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Steve Oronsaye, for alleged N6.2billion pension scam during his tenure.
About N5 billion in bogus contracts were allegedly awarded and payments made between January 2009 and November 2010 while Oronsaye was in office. The scandal was uncovered in the Pension Unit of the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (OHCSF).
Four companies are being investigated by the EFCC on the scandal. They are Frederick Hamilton Global Limited, Xangee Technologies, Fatidek Venture and Obanlado Enterprises.
The four companies were allegedly paid N399, 366,619 for biometrics for pensioners, even as no valid contract was awarded to the firms by the Federal Government.
Frederick Hamilton Global got N119, 398,500.00; Xangee Technologies (N153, 146,719.00); Fatidek Venture (N30, 056,000.00) and Obanlado Enterprises (N96, 765,400.00).
The EFCC was said to be acting on an allegation against Oronsaye that the four companies allegedly belong to his cronies.
Oronsaye has been answering detectives’ questions since December 7.
It was learnt that a former Deputy Director (Pension Account) in the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Phina Chidi, raised the allegation against Oronsaye in a statement made to the EFCC.
Chidi is on trial for alleged pension fraud, alongside many top directors.
The EFCC had earlier obtained Interim Forfeiture Order to secure N500 million and $2 million traced to the accounts of Pam Investment Properties Limited, which is linked to Chidi.
She is standing trial with a former Director of Pension Administration in the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Dr. Sani Teidi Shuaibu, whose hotel in Abuja and four filling stations have been seized by the EFCC.
Chidi was alleged to have implicated Oronsaye in her testimony.
Chidi reportedly told EFCC investigators how she was mandated to shop for contractors who would make returns to Oronsaye through Shuaibu.
The document quoted Chidi as writing the following in her statement: “In addition to my statement on 11 January, 2011, I wish to state as follows: that I was asked by Dr. Shuaibu to shop for company names to execute our contracts, proceeds of which should be given to Mr. Stephen Oronsaye, the then Head of Service.”
She was said to have explained how such proceeds were warehoused in two banks before they were allegedly transferred to Oronsaye through Shuaibu.
“The latest in the seemingly endless tale of graft in the pension account of the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, shows how an initial contract of N63 million for biometric data capture awarded to Innovative Solutions and Project Limited, allegedly handpicked by Oronsaye for the exercise became a conduit through which five other companies and three individuals profited to the tune of N705, 368,245.00.
“The investigation team is also looking into how most of the companies, which are owned by cronies of Oronsaye, had no contracts for the biometric exercise but were simply used as conduits to siphon fund which were then shared.
“For instance, Frederick Hamilton Global Limited had no contract to participate in the biometric exercise but was paid N119, 398,500.00. Xangee Technologies received N153, 146,719.00; Fatidek Venture got N30, 056,000.00 while Obanlado Enterprises was paid N96, 765,400.00. None of them had contract.”
“Others covered by the payment mandate, which was allegedly made out on the eve of Oronsaye’s departure as Head of Service are Innovative Solutions and Project Limited and Vivians Ebony Nigeria Enterprise. Others are Kate Chinwe Obiekwe, Ibrahim Abdulkarim and Mohammed Abdullahi Ahmed.
“The trio, who, are officials of the OHCSF pension, received N56, 612,585.00, N80, 108,640.00 and N23, 760.00 respectively in what is called collective allowance – the omnibus term for allowances paid out to an officer of the OHCSF for distribution to other staff who are supposedly meant to be on a trip, contrary to Federal Government directives on e-payment
“Of the companies mentioned, only Innovative Solutions had contract with the office of the Head of Service worth N63m. Its emergence as the preferred contractor is said to be in breach of procurement process as contract for the biometric capture was not advertised.
“Certificate of no objection was also not obtained by the office of the Head of Service from the Bureau of Public Procurement even though Oronsaye was alleged to have indicated in his statement before the EFCC that he made an informal request to the BPP about the process involved,” the document stated.
Innovative Solutions was said to have been recommended for the contract by one Osarenkhoe Afe, an IT consultant and nominee of Oransaye as member of a ‘pension reform committee’.
“Not only is the contract to Innovative solutions irregular, investigators believed it was inflated, the document states, adding: “Even though it was stated that there would be no variation to the contract, analysis of the company’s bank statement indicated it was fraudulently paid N224.85 million.”
“When Afe was grilled by the EFCC, he allegedly confessed that the contract was inflated and that Frederick Hamilton fraudulently received a total of N289.05million out of which N250million was remitted to Oronsaye through third parties.
“He claimed he had benefited to the tune of N35million and was willing to make a refund.
“The flow of funds in the account of Innovative Solutions further provided insight into the scam. Once the first tranche of payment from the OHCSF hit its account, N35million was paid to Uptrach Communications Limited, which is the actual company that executed the biometric contract.
“The investigation team gathered that this N35m was the actual value of the contract and that other payments were made out to be shared by the conspirators in the scam.”
Oronsaye was still being quizzed last night.
A source close to the EFCC told our correspondent that Oransanye allegedly feigned ignorance of the existence of some of the companies.
“In a statement he made to EFCC investigators on December 7, 2013, Oronsaye claimed he did not know the promoters of Xangee Technologies, Fatidek Ventures and Obanlado Enterprises and never approved any payment to them. A payment mandate to these and other companies was signed by Phina U. Chidi, Lawal, and Barr. Garba A. Tahir.
“When Oronsaye was confronted with this mandate, he went mute, vowing not to talk until he had seen the full file.”
The source in the commission said eight allegations had been isolated for Oronsaye to answer and these are:
•Does he have any relationship with the owners of the four companies?
•Did the four firms get payment of N399m for biometric contracts not officially awarded?
•Why was a N63m contract awarded by the OHCSF Office to Innovative Solutions inflated to N289m?
•Why was the contract in breach of the Public Procurement Act?
•Was it true that N250million was paid into Oronsaye’s account through a third party
•Who authorised the payment of N136, 744,985 to three officials in the OHCSF Office as “collective allowance” in cash instead of through e-payment?
•Did Oronsaye nominate Osarenkhoe Afe, an IT consultant, as a member of the Pension Reform Committee?
•Did Afe recommend Innovative Solutions for the inflated contract?
EFCC spokesman Wilson Uwujaren who confirmed that Oronsaye had been quizzed over the allegations, also said that more than four companies were being probed.