– As Commission of Enquiry opens can of worms
The last may not have been heard about disregard for due process, misappropriation of public funds and other large scale financial scandals that were the hallmark of Governor Rochas Okorocha’s eight (8) year tenure in Imo State, as the Justice Iheka led Commission of Enquiry into contracts awarded by past government in the state has continued to make shocking revelations.
The most recent is the exposition by the Director of Accounts during the Rescue Mission government in the state, Uzoho Casmir about how Governor Okorocha disregarded due process and manipulated civil service procedure in awarding multi billion naira contracts to his siblings, friends and associates, with whom he allegedly conspired to milk the state dry.
While testifying before the Justice Iheka led Commission of Enquiry recently, Mr Uzoho revealed how the already dilapidated Imo International Convention Centre (IICC) that it’s roof has been severally blown off by wind storm because of poor quality job, was built at the cost N2.5 billion.
According to him, monies for contracts were released by his office in line with the Governor’s directives without following due process because the Governor gave directives for monies to be released without specification hence vouchers were not raised.
When also invited to testify before the Commission, Mr Jeff, Managing Director of Gush Limited, the company that allegedly worked hand-in-gloves with the Rescue Mission government in siphoning public funds and handled virtually all major projects in the state including roads, government buildings, fly-overs, supply and management of petrol and diesel at Government House, among others explained that he handled not less than nine construction projects in the state including the IICC project that was sub-contracted to him. According to Mr Jeff, the IICC project was initially awarded to a company named PRAMIF, that gave him the job as a sub-contract at the cost of N1.4 billion. He was paid N100 million by PRAMIF for the job while the state government paid him the balance.
It was however revealed from documents presented to the commission that after the Rochas Okorocha government had awarded contract for the construction of IICC to PROMIF at the cost of N1.9 billion and made full payment, it went ahead and paid GUSH N1.3 billion for the same contract. It was also observed that the same practice was replicated in the case of the Trade and Investment Centre, where GUSH was also hired as a sub-contractor and was paid by the state government after the main contractor had been paid in full for the same project.
Another shocking revelation that exposed the rot that characterized the self-acclaimed Rescue Mission government in the state was that Mr Jeff could not provide contract award letters or contract agreement letters because according to him, some of the contracts like the renovation of some department buildings in the Imo State University prior to accreditation, for which he was paid a total of N113 million were discussed and sealed verbally.
Responding to questions from members of the Commission, Mr Uzoho condemned the way and manner contracts were awarded and paid for as not only an aberration that is contrary to civil service rules and procedures but it also inhibits transparency. “But our hands were tied because the Governor gave directives and called the shots”.