FEDERAL Government’s anti-corruption operatives have been sent after ‘super rich’ public officers who have multiple properties and other assets suspected to have been the rewards of graft.
For now, The PUNCH learnt, the searchlight of the anti-corruption agents was on civil servants that possess many properties in the Federal Capital Territory.
Our correspondents learnt in Abuja on Wednesday that operatives in the Assets Tracing, Recovery and Management Unit of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission had been asked to haul in suspects for interrogation and recovery of ill-gotten assets in their possession.
It was gathered that the ICPC had strengthened the ATRMU by posting more personnel to the unit to ensure the success of its campaign.
An operative at the ICPC, who confided in one of our correspondents, said the ICPC was using the anti-corruption transparency unit of the commission in ministries, departments and agencies to coordinate the ongoing investigation of the “super rich” civil servants in the country.
It was learnt that the ICPC was relying on petitions from civil servants and the ACTU operatives to carry out its investigations into the activities of the affected civil servants.
It was gathered that the ICPC operatives’ focus had been on civil servants who have more than three properties and a fleet of cars beyond their income.
Although the source did not mention the number of civil servants that had been quizzed in relation to the new move to check fraud in the civil service, it was learnt that several personnel of the civil service had been placed under watch by the ICPC.
The source, who spoke to The PUNCH, said any civil servant found to have compromised his office to acquire wealth would be charged to court after the proceeds of the corrupt acts would have been confiscated by the Federal Government.
The source said, “The ICPC is intensifying efforts to retrieve some of these stolen assets from those involved.
“You know that the commission has a unit called the Assets Tracing, Recovery and Management Unit. This is the unit that is involved in probing those who have such assets with stolen funds.
“In fact the operatives are working very discreetly on the issue but the focus of the ICPC’s probe is the civil service.
“Those civil servants living a life beyond their means, their lifestyles are under watch. People are monitoring them, whistle-blowers are writing petitions and the Assets Recovery Unit is following up on them.
“Another thing is that we have the Anti-Corruption Transparency Units in all the agencies; these units are being supervised by our officers. They are collaborating with whistle-blowers in the various ministries and agencies…”
When one of our correspondents contacted the Resident Consultant, Media and Events of the ICPC, Mr. Folu Olamiti, for his comment on the telephone, he said that he was aware of the presence of the ARMTU and its constitutional functions but asked our correspondent to call back for a response on the current investigation.
However, our correspondent could not get him to comment on the story as the subsequent calls to his mobile telephone did not connect.
The Federal Government has expressed its worry about the rate of corruption in the civil service.
The Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Lamorde, had in the past urged a former Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Alhaji Bukar Goni Aji, to put in place an internal mechanism to check the negative trend.
The commission had in a statement by its spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren, quoted Lamorde as citing the involvement of civil servants in the pension fraud investigations.
Lamorde had said, “You should look inward and focus on issues of welfare that may be the cause of the incessant corrupt acts. Even though this is not an excuse before the law, we should be able to ask ourselves why for example most properties in the Federal Capital Territory are found to be owned by civil servants through proxies.”
The Ahmed Joda Transition Committee has also lamented the corruption and inefficiency in the civil service.
The committee, in its report submitted to President Muhammadu Buhari, noted that the public service was characterised by weak governance, bureaucratic bottlenecks and low professional standards.
In the report, a copy of which was obtained by The PUNCH on Wednesday, the committee said that there was low productivity, graft as well as inefficiency in the civil service.
It recommended that the public service should place emphasis on performance
According to the committee, government should “implement a merit-based performance management system, recruitment and deployment process.”
It added that government should “set clearly defined goals and targets for public officers and consequences for non-implementation.”
Meanwhile, wife of the senate president, Mrs. Toyin Saraki, again reported at the EFCC office on Wednesday to continue her interrogation by anti-graft operatives.
She arrived at the commission by 10 am and was released to go on administrative bail by 4.30pm.
Administrative bail means that Mrs Saraki would make herself available at the commission any time she is required to do so.
Her interrogation had commenced on Tuesday when EFCC operatives were said to have grilled her for over six hours.
The senate president’s wife is being investigated for her role in the alleged sleaze that took place during her husband’s tenure as governor of Kwara State.
She was alleged to have involved herself in the award of contracts in the state and laundering of millions of naira.