A special investigative panel constituted to probe activities of the Registrar/Chief Executive of the National Business and Technical Examinations Board (NABTEB), Professor Ifeoma Isuigo-Abanihe, has uncovered irregularities in contract awards and abuse of office by the embattled Registrar.
The panel has also ordered Isuigo-Abanihe to immediately refund the sum of N49,779,262.50, which she could not account for to the coffers of NABTEB.
Investigation revealed that the Registrar and four Directors were suspended by the 9th Governing Board of NABTEB at its first regular Board meeting on held on 19th June, 2018, at NABTEB headquarters, Benin City, Edo State, following allegation of fraud and refusal to open her books as requested by the Board’s Chairman, Prof. Leonard Karshima Shilgba.
The four affected staff are: Mr. Nnasia Ndarake Asanga (Director, Finance & Accounts), Dr. Obinna M. Opara (Director, Examination Administration), Alhaji Jimoh Adewola Kasali (Director, Examinations Development) and the Procurement Officer, Engr. Edwin Osamo.
Both the Registrar and the four management staff have been suspended from office by the Board to allow for unfettered investigation by another committee set up in Benin city, in line with the zero-tolerance stance of the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari to corruption.
Documents obtained by newsmen, from sources within the Federal Ministry of Education and the Committee, indicated that there were breaches of procurement rules, misappropriation of funds, illegal recruitment and other irregularities that pervaded Isuigo-Abanihe administration as NABTEB Registrar.
The special committee was constituted by the Governing Board during its emergency meeting at the Abuja Liaison office on May 16, 2018 to review the documents she earlier submitted to the Board, the queries raised by the Board Chairman and the responses/actions by the Registrar.
Members of the five-man special committee were:, Dr Charles Osahon Imaru (a Presidential appointee) as Chairman; Dr Rachael Bassey Akpabio (Presidential appointee), Mr J. O. Oke, representative of West African Examinations Council (WAEC); Mrs Tina Eyaru (representative of Federal Ministry of Education) and Dr Titus Umoru (representative of PTBTA), who served as the secretary.
A letter conveying the suspension of the Registrar signed by the Chairman Governing Board of NABTEB, Prof. Karshima Shilga, dated 21st June, 2018, which was also obtained by our correspondent, reads in part: “The committee submitted its report at the first regular meeting of the Governing Board on Tuesday, June 19, 2018, which was given to you.
“After deliberation on the report, you, the Registrar/Chief Executive of NABTEB, Professor Ifeoma M. Isuigo-Abanihe, were asked to respond to the findings of the committee.
“Unfortunately, your shocking defence was, “I apologize,” which is not an admissible defence expected of a public officer under the Public Service Rule. Accordingly, the Governing Board unanimously approved your suspension as Registrar/Chief Executive of NABTEB, having regard to Rules 030301, 030302, 030304, 030305, 160501, and 160502 of the Public Service Rule (PSR), and recommended accordingly to the Honourable Minister of Education for further necessary action (s), who has since been informed (together with the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education).
“This action is considered necessary in order to facilitate due investigations by the Governing Board and other germane federal authorities, and allow unfettered access to relevant documents that until now have been withheld in spite of official requests by the Chairman of the Board and the Special Committee appointed by the Governing Board on May 16, 2018, so that financial and other damages to the Federal Government shall be curtailed.”
Key findings of the committee, which have already been communicated to the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, suggested that NABTEB has incurred about N400 million debt as a result shoddy executions of contracts under the watch of Isuigo-Abanihe.
She was said to have been involved in illegal recruitment of about 15 staff when the Board was already in place to approve the recruitment process and advertised in the media.
The committee also revealed that the Registrar failed to account for N1000 charged for Registration PINS, wondering that PIN production that is virtual should shrouded in secrecy.
On the failure of the Registrar, to respond to the Board’s official query, the committee noted that the Registrar was guilty of insubordination and has therefore infracted on the law especially Act 6 (2) of the Establishment Act, and Public Service Rule.
The Act expresses the understanding that the Registrar should be the Chief Executive of the Board and shall be responsible for the execution of the policy of the Board and the day to day administration of the affairs of the Board subject to the general control of the Board.
On violation of procurement process, the panel said it scrutinized the Registrar’s contract awards between 21st February to 14th March, 2018, and found that the 42 contracts amounting to #154,813,432.00 were split into 15 separate contracts for printing and 14 separate contracts for supply of HP LaserJet Toner.
The rest were split among supply of printers, hard-drives, DDR Roms, office flat files, envelops, kalamazoo binders, photocopying machines and Risograph machines, among others and that there were no units specified and it was not possible to determine unit cost nor quantity of all items.
“The contracts did not go through due process. The awarding authority in this respect was the Management Tenders Board. The contracts were hurriedly awarded, split into units and were not given to the President through the Ministry of Education for approval as the amount involved was beyond the powers of the Management Tenders Board.
“The Registrar has violated Paragraph 6, page 3 of the Administrative Guideline regulating relationship between parastatals/government owned companies and the government which stipulates that government will ensure that there is always a board for every parastatal that has a statutory provision for such a body.
“Where, however, a board is dissolved and is not immediately possible to reconstitute the board, the President shall, on the recommendation of the supervisory ministry constitute an interim board, pending the reconstitution of such a board, all matters which normally require the approval of the board, shall be referred, by ministry, to the President for approval.
“As at the time these contracts were awarded, the date of inauguration of the Board which took place on the 22nd of March, 2018 has already been announced.
“The Registrar is guilty of Contract splitting without obtaining approval from the supervisory ministry as stipulated in NABTEB Standing Order 18 and 19 N. Section 18 states that “all services and goods (e.g. printing, supplies or purchases) contracts above N2.5 million, and all works (e.g. contracts from N5 million and above shall receive the final approval of the Governing Board.
“ And there shall be no splitting of contract for the same services or goods (e.g. printing, supplies or purchases) contract the sum worth of whose splits is above N2.5 million, and for the same works (e.g. construction, renovation or refurbishing projects) contract the sum worth of whose splits is N5 million or more without the approval of the Governing Board. Section 19 states that NABTEB Tenders Board shall not be the final clearance or approval authority for the contracts and expenditures that the management of NABTEB enters into.
“All approvals of NABTEB Tenders Board shall be forwarded to the Governing Board of NABTEB for consideration and approval. The award documents should be referred to the appropriate organ of NABTEB Board or government to determine the exact contract amount involved with a view to recovering same.
“All contractors of NABTEB have not performed satisfactorily. This is glaring as the NABTEB has accumulated debt of over N400 million as a result of shoddy contract deals and mismanagement. Therefore, the contractors should not be patronized further by the Board.
“The Registrar has stubbornly refused to release to the Governing Board details of contract awards for printing and supply of security materials (question papers) for the May/June, 2018 examinations,” the report stated.
On failure of Registrar to explain the difference of #49,779,262.50, the committee examined the Registrar’s claim that online Registration was estimated at a cost of #188,912,390.00 for 2017 May/June.
It also looked into the supply of NABTEB Preparatory CD for May/June and Nov/Dec 2017 certificate examinations which was #16,102,500.00 and May/June and Nov/Dec 2017 Biometric Registration of #123,010,627.50 totaling #139,133,127.50.
The panel noted that if Online Registration was the same with Biometric/Preparatory CD which the Registrar said it is, the difference between #188,912,390 and #139,133,127.50 which amounted to #49,779,262.50 should be accounted for.
As such the panel recommended that Registrar should refund the sum of #49,779,262.50 to the coffers of NABTEB.
The report further indicated that the panel unraveled fraud in the purchase of stationeries and consumables for the conduct of NABTEB examinations.
For instance, the committee said it tried to determine whether May/June 2017 examinations with 58,719 candidates cost #40,004,055 on stationeries and consumables and whether Nov/Dec 2017 examinations with 45,100 registered candidates cost #144,857,796 on stationeries and consumables.
Its findings indicated that N40,004,055 was the cost of stationeries and consumables for 58,719 candidates and the unit cost of May/June, 2017 examinations is N861.27 and was startled to have found that N144,857,796 was the cost of stationeries and consumables for 45,100 candidates and the unit cost of Nov/Dec, 2017 examinations is N3,211.92, noting this was untenable.
The suspended Registrar and the four management staff of NABTEB are to face the new panel set up to conduct full investigation of the allegations against them. The panel is made up of: i) Dr. Momodu Sanusi Jimah (Representative of Polytechnics) as Chairman; ii) Mrs. Tina Eyaru (Representative of Federal Ministry of Education); iii) Chief Dr. Chris Biriowu; iv) Dr. Rachel Bassey Akpabio; v) Alhaji Yusuf Dauda (Representative of NECO) secretary and; vi) Chief Legal Officer of NABTEB.