The last may not have been heard about suspended Director General of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as report shows he awarded contracts to own companies, BENJAMIN UMUTEME reports.
Eye brows were raised when a federal capital territory High court discharged and acquitted suspended Director General of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Mounir Gwarzo of the charges of fraud filed against him.
Also discharged and acquitted with Gwarzo is Zakwanu Garba, who at that time was an Executive Commissioner of the commission.
In discharging both men who had been arraigned before him by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Justice Husseini Baba-Yusuf held that the prosecution failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt.
Former Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun had suspended both men from their position in November 2017 over allegation of corruption. She later set up a panel of inquiry to investigate the alleged issues, after which the ICPC arraigned them.
Suspended Director General of Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC, Mounir Gwarzo reportedly awarded contracts to a company in which he is a director to the tune of N33m while in office.
Panel of inquiry
However, volume 1 of the main report of the administrative panel of inquiry into the allegation of violation of public service rules, financial regulations, and other extant rules and regulations by Mounir .H Gwarzo, Mrs. Anastasia Omozele Braimoh and Mr. Abdulsalam Naif .H, showed how the suspended Director General awarded contracts to companies owned by him and his wife’s family in flagrant disobedience of public service rules.
The Terms of Reference of the Panel include to investigate allegations against Gwarzo that he collected severance package in the sum of N104,851,154.94 while still in service, served as director in Medusa Limited while in public service in violation of PSR 030424 which prohibits public officers from holding office as director in private companies, used his position as DG of SEC to award contracts to Medusa wherein he was serving as director , thus resulting in conflict of interest.
Another allegation was that he expended about N2 billion without appropriation contrary to extant financial regulations among others.
In the report, the panel among others found that the severance package paid to Gwarzo was wrongly collected since he did not exit the services of the SEC and recommended that he refunds the amount.
‘Directorship in other companies’
On the second allegation of Gwarzo’s directorship in Medusa Limited while still serving as DG, the report stated that inquiry made and documents obtained by the panel at the Corporate Affairs Commission revealed that Gwarzo was still a director of the company as well as a major shareholder with a shareholding of N1.2m as at the time of the search
“His purported letter of resignation dates 19th December 2012 was not part of CAC’s records as at the date of the inquiry l. It was equally discovered from the account opening mandate obtained from GTBank that Gwarzo was at the date of the inquiry signatory to account No 322324264/1/110 maintained by the company with the bank.
The panel was also furnished with a letter dated 24th July, 2015, addressed to the bank signed by Gwarzo as director of the company requesting for a change of account Officer on the basis of a resolution passed and signed by the directors of the company to that effect.
The report indicated that also discovered was a letter dated 16th August , 2016 signed by Gwarzo as a director of the company requesting for the issuance of a credit card in relation to the said account.
“When Gwarzo was confronted with the above letters, he admitted to have authored and signed them, but claimed that it was a regrettable action” the report stated.
On Outbound Investments Limited which benefitted in contacts awarded by SEC to the tune of N33,736,596, in which Gwarzo is a director and shareholder, he claimed the company belongs to his wife’s family and stated that he was only representing his wife on the Board.
Based on revelations, the panel opined that Gwarzo’s status as director in both Medusa Investment Limited and Outbound Investment Limited while in post as Director General of SEC has raised and established a fundamental issue of conflict of interest against him.
Specifically, the PSR 030424 expressly states that Public officers are not prohibited from holding shares in both public and private companies operating in Nigeria or abroad except that they must not be directors in public companies and may only be directors in public companies if nominated by government.
Furthermore, Section 6 of the Investment and Securities Act 2007 states as follows: the Director General and the Fill Time Commissioners shall devote their full time to the service of the Commission and while holding office, shall not hold any other office or employment except where appointed by virtue of their office in the Commission into the membership of the Board of any agency of the Government in Nigeria or any International Organisation to which the Commission is a member of in affiliate”.
Given his directorship in both companies, the panel opined that Gwarzo was in breach of PSR 030424 and PSR 030402 ( divides loyalty, which is classified as an act of serious misconduct).
The panel also opined that being a shareholder of Outbound Investment Limited, Gwarzo used his position as DG to influence the award of contracts to the company which amounts to conflict of interest.
For instance, in Annexure 11 and 11a-11d, the panel attached to the report the schedule of payments made to Outbound Investment Limited by Sec for various contracts executed between April 2015 and April 2017.
On the issue of Golden handshake, the panel said Gwarzo violated the provisions of Paragraphs 313 and 316 (4) of the Financial Regulations by not seeking the authorisation of the Minister of Finance before engaging in extra budgetary expenditure and virement.
Based on the gravity of the findings by the Panel, It was recommended that Gwarzo be directed to refund the sum of N104,851,154.94 which he allegedly collected as severance package, secondly, the panel recommended that Gwarzo be dismissed from the Public Service of the federal government for holding the position of a Director in private companies while in service as the DG of SEC in breach of PSR 030424 and Section 6 of the Investment and Securities Act 2007.
The panel ask recommended that Gwarzo be referred to the ICPC for further investigation of the allegation of using his position as DG to influence the award of contracts to Outbound Investment Limited in view of the Provisions of Sections 58 (12) (b) and 58 (5) of the Public Procurement Act 2007.
They also recommended Gwarzo’s dismissal from Public Service in relation to the allegation of Golden handshake having breached paragraphs 313 and 316 (4) of the Financial Regulations (Government Notice No. 291 of 27th October, 2009) ( engaging in extra budgetary expenditure without appropriate approval).
Reorientation of staff
The Panel also recommended that the cases of Mrs. Anastasia Omozele Braimoh and Abdulsalam Naif, two management officers of the Commission, be referred to SEC for appropriate disciplinary action in line with the provisions of the Staff Manual of the Commission.
The Panel advised the federal government to re-orientate public servants to the very fact that the Public Service Rules and Financial Regulations are ground norms of every Government Service Contract, whether at the Federal, State or Local Government levels.
It added: “Accordingly, all Government Extra-Ministerial Departments and Agencies should be made to understand that the PSR and FR are superior to whatever specific legislation and domestic arrangements that guides their operations, except when such issues were not covered by any provision of the PSR.”
ICPC to appeal court ruling
Meanwhile, ICPC has vowed to appeal the ruling on the “No Case submission” in the trial of Gwarzo.
The judge had absolved Gwarzo of the allegation that he used his official position to corruptly enrich himself by using the monies paid to him as car grant as the DG SEC.
Justice Baba-Yusuf held that the evidence presented by ICPC cannot be used by any court to convict Gwarzo.
However, economist Friday Efih believes the FCT High Court ruling will further embolden those in the position of trust to do worse things.
According to him, “they will commit such infraction in the hope that they will run to the court to get judgment in their favour.
“The implication is that the ruling by Justice Baba-Yusuf has set a new precedence in rules and regulations guiding civil servants,” he added.
But the short, medium and long term implication of this ruling only time will tell.