Suspended management of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund, NSITF, has said all trainings, contracts, and rehabilitation it carried out received the approvals of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment and the National Assembly.
The organisation was responding to comment by Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, that the suspended managing director/Chief Executive Officer of NSITF, Adebayo Somefun and some members of his executive lavished N3.4 billion on “non-existent staff training split into about 196 different consultancy contracts in order to evade the Ministerial Tenders Board and Federal Executive Council, FEC, approvals.”
Ngige had cited financial infraction and procurement breaches as some of the reasons why Mr. Somefun, three directors, and other officials of the agency were suspended by President Muhammadu Buhari last week Thursday.
But, in its response through a statement on Sunday, July 5, 2020, in Abuja, the suspended management team maintained that trainings referred to by the minister were budgeted for in 2017, 2018 and 2019 appropriations for over 5,000 staff nationwide, and Procurement Planning Committee Meetings held for the procurement of goods, works and services to commence the procurement activities.
However, Ngige directed the management team to tender their evidence before the Joint Board and Audit Investigative Panel set up to look into the financial and procurement breaches, as well as gross misconduct in the NSITF for periods of 2016 to date.
“Let them go and tell those ones to the panel. They should go to the panel and show all those things and if they are correct the panel will exonerate them,” Ngige said.
The statement by the suspended NSITF management said: “There was no contract splitting as claimed by the Minister. The training referred to were budgeted for in the year 2017, 2018, and 2019 appropriations for over 5,000 staff nationwide, and Procurement Planning Committee Meetings were held for the procurement of goods, works, and services to commence the procurement activities.
“All these details were included in the budget for these years, taken for budget defence in the supervising ministry, officially endorsed by the minister himself, approved and transmitted to the National Assembly for necessary approval during the budget defences for these years.
“Another allegation the minister leveled against the suspended management was that the project of construction of 14 Zonal/Regional offices in 14 states running into billions of naira was a policy that was done without board or ministerial knowledge not to talk of approval.
“We hereby seek that due process be followed and the suspended staff should be allowed to return to their offices to prepare their defence to all allegations against them.
“There are already reports that some of the documents needed to defend the allegations are being carted away from the office. Consequently, it would be appreciated if the minister would comply with the SGF Circular Ref No. SGF/OP/I.S.3/T/163 dated 19th May, 2020.”
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association, NECA, has denied that the board of the NSITF wrote a petition against the management team to detailing financial impropriety, which was presented to President Buhari.
Timothy Olawale, the NECA director-general, in response to Nigige said: “NECA is not against the minister as head of the supervising ministry taking whatever actions he deemed right in his capacity but takes exception to misrepresentation and misleading information to the public. It would be interesting in public interest to divulge the identities of the board members behind the said petition.
“Some stakeholders may be fooled by misinformation and misrepresentations, but NECA refuses to fall for illegality as we owe contributors to the Fund who are employers of labour represented by us and the citizenry the duty of due diligence and forthrightness.”
Olawale is a member of the NSITF board representing NECA.
Source: The Nation