…As EFCC quizzes Medical Director
Following recent workers versus management face-off at the National Ear Care Centre (NECC), Kaduna, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has stormed the organization to clean up the Augean stables. For about four hours on Thursday, May 12, 2016, EFCC operatives drilled the Medical Director, Dr Aminu Bakari over allegations of corruption leveled against his management. BABANGIDA KAKAKI reports there are still areas tainted by alleged fraud that interest the anti-graft agency
Without doubts, Dr Aminu Bakari would have wished for better times presiding over the Kaduna based National Ear Care Centre as the Medical Director. Close aides hinted that our ‘Oga at the Top’ is so embattled that attending to daily routine of his office at the Centre has become quite cumbersome with breaking sweat of worries now a common feature on his face. According to the aides, May 12, 2016 would always remain unforgettable for Bakari as EFCC operatives took him on damning allegations against his office, including the controversial procurement of the CT Scan machine, in which the federal government was allegedly defrauded of over 90 million Naira. Armed with numerous petitions and copies of media reports, including the May edition of Forefront, highlighting areas of suspected frauds and corrupt activities, the anti-graft agency is said to have confronted the Medical Director with telling information and facts even as the Centre’s Accounts department’s staff were directed to produce relevant vouchers on the contentious purchases. According to a competent source, “Dr. Bakari would not forget that day in a rush as the EFCC team demanded explanations on the purported loans advanced to staff. No doubt, the Medical Director had his hands full with the operatives promising to pay another visit soonest in order to tidy up all loose ends preparatory towards prosecuting culprits if the need should arise. At the moment, various incriminating documents still fly around the Centre as aggrieved workers insist they are ready and willing to avail EFCC with all the necessary information to back their allegations of impropriety against Dr. Bakari. “His actions and inactions have caused a lot of problems for the Centre since he assumed office as the Medical Director. Regrettably, the Relativity allowance funds approved by the Federal Ministry of Health for the staff were dubiously converted into another expenditure line. Unaware that we were paid the Relativity allowance by his predecessor, Professor Babagana Ahmad, the present Medical Director rather deployed the funds as vehicle loans to the Staff. Already, there are insinuations that the plan was to later deduct the so-called loans later from our salaries with an existing arrangement for the top Management to connive with certain Staff in the accounts department to channel the money into private pockets,” one Senior staff told this magazine. Another insider told Forefront that the workers are not reneging in their vow to unravel other perceived fraudulent acts being engineered with impunity by Dr. Bakari. It is claimed that under his watch as the Medical Director, the Centre’s X-ray machine has been out of order for many months now, a development seen as surreptitiously aiding the private practice of the Centre’s Head of Radiology Department, Dr. Jibrin Joshua, who now operates his personal clinic near the Centre, with all patients referred there for X-rays, and other related medical problems. “It is true that, our X-Ray machine is faulty, but it will not take much money to fix or repair it. Our management has looked the other way, because the HOD Radiology has opened his private clinic branch near our office where patients are referred for treatment to the detriment of the Centre whose revenue has seriously dwindled in the recent past due to lack of functional equipment to service members of the public,” hinted a staff who sought anonymity. Insiders accused Bakari of compromise, wondering why as Head of the only National ENT Centre in the country, he has refused to frown at such unprofessional practice or work to remedy the ugly situation at the Centre by putting all necessary equipment back to functional level. Some of the aggrieved staff took Forefront to the clinic allegedly owned by the HOD Radiology with the name, Alheri Medical Imaging and Clinical Services. It is a branch of the bigger Clinic at Suite GF 2 & 3 Zebra Plaza, Romi GRA, behind Samrada Filling Station, Kaduna. Also, alleged owner of the clinic, HOD Radiology of NECC, Dr Joshua is accused of absenteeism from work while spending most of his time at his private clinic. But in his reaction, the Medical Director told Forefront that all the allegations were a figment of his detractors’ imagination. “It is false and untrue. Efforts are being made to repair the X-ray machine. We are actually experiencing financial challenges now, but they will do it soon.” On accusations that Dr. Joshua is not always in his office, Dr. Bakari said the issue would investigated as such reports have not come to him officially even as the issue of Dr Joshua’s private clinic was parried without any concrete response. Impeccable sources told Forefront there are still so much corrupt practices going on within the Centre in terms of contract awards such as the construction of Consulting Offices, Research Centre and other facilities. “When the projects were advertised by the Centre’s Tenders Board, that has Dr. Bakari as chairman, the lowest bid was 140 million Naira while there were two others at 197 million Naira and 200 million Naira respectively. So, under normal circumstances, the least bid being 140 million ought to be selected, as long as it met the technical and financial requirements”, the source said. Forefront gathered that Dr. Bakari ignored due process and awarded the contract to M.G. Nigeria Limited with the 197 million Naira bid belonging to one Magaji Ahmed Jarman Makarfi. The development prompted the lowest bidder to write a petition to the Bureau for Public Procurement (BPP) that eventually cancelled the contract award. However, the BPP, after a comprehensive review, endorsed M.G. Nigeria Ltd, to resume with the project in a letter of March 1, 2016, but at the reduced sum of 156 million Naira. That petition succeeded in saving about 41 million Naira that would have gone into private pockets. Similarly, another contract to rehabilitate the Male Ward, Female Ward and GOPD, General Outpatient Department, was also awarded by the Bakari’s led management to a firm that had a 21 million Naira bid, while rejecting other firms with lower bids. When a petition was sent to BPP, the contract was reviewed but awarded to the same company at a reduced sum of 15 million Naira, thereby saving four million Naira in the process. In a letter dated March 1, 2016 and sent to the Managing Director, Commerce General Nigeria Limited, one Abdulrahman Abubakar of Estate Division said, “the BPP had reviewed and rectified the award of contract for the rehabilitation of male, female wards, and GOPD to your company at a reviewed contract sum of 15,611,883.00 only. This supersedes the earlier letter of award of 14, December 2015.” “So, in just two contracts, a public agency like NECC could have connived with contractors to shortchange government of over 45 million Naira if not for the two petitions that blew the lip of the scam”, the source said, To support their allegations of his poor administrative style, some of the staff told Forefront that Dr Bakari was queried three times in a single day on October 20, 2014 over misconduct and non-compliance with simple laid down rules and procedures by the Former Chairperson of NECC Board, Dr. (Chief, Mrs.) Abisola E. Clark. The letters, currently in possession of Forefront, have two of them titled ‘Request for Inquiry’, and read in part, “I have learnt that you are about to conduct 2015 budget defense of the Centre tomorrow October 21, 2014 in the budget office without the consent of the Board which is an act of insubordination.” The letters further states; “However, I have learnt that you are about to travel to Ibadan as an examiner of West African College of Surgeon without prior notice of the Board. In view of the above, you are to explain to the Board why would go ahead to travel out of the Centre without prior notice of the Board Chairperson.” In both letters, Bakari was requested to reply within 24 hours. In the third letter on the implementation of Integrated Payroll personnel Information System (IPPIS), the Board Chairman, Mrs Clark queried Bakari over the Centre’s staff salaries, including the staff that were underpaid; others over paid; staff on suspension; ghost workers; and those illegally employed but enjoying bogus take home pay. Dr. Bakari was ordered to explain within 48 hours, why he did not make efforts to delay implementation of IPPIS as earlier instructed? Why he didn’t request trial payroll from IPPIS Office for efficient correction of errors before implementation? And how he would recover monies paid to suspended principal officers and ghost workers? On abuse of due process and non-compliance with the Single Treasury Account (TSA), Forefront gathered that an Insurance Company once brought about three million Naira belonging to the Centre. But in his usual self, Dr. Bakari allegedly lodged the money in his friend’s account who is equally a staff of the Centre. The money was thereafter withdrawn in cash and handed over to Dr. Bakari. And concerned staff, who were aware of the underhand deal are querying “What happened to the money? Is this not an abuse of TSA’s implementation by the federal government? When asked about his reaction on the allegations, Dr. Bakari said there was nothing to say because already he has written a petition against Forefront to the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) on an earlier story published against his Management.