The Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission has traced N292m to the account of one of the permanent secretaries that were retired on Tuesday.
PUNCH Newspaper gathered on Thursday that the ICPC made the discovery during the discreet investigations into the five months the permanent secretaries presided over ministries in the absence of ministers.
Anti-graft investigators were said to have commenced probe into the permanent secretaries’ reign shortly after President Muhammadu Buhari submitted the ministerial list to the Senate.
It was learnt that the investigators became curious upon discovery that the account of one of the permanent secretaries swelled up to N292m in the last five months.
PUNCH correspondents learnt that three more permanent secretaries might also face trial for alleged corruption. There had been a report on Thursday that five former permanent secretaries would face trial for alleged corruption.
It was learnt that the ICPC’s investigations were not limited to permanent secretaries that were compulsorily retired on Tuesday but also those who served in the past five months and still in service.
Findings showed that the ICPC might invite some of the permanent secretaries for interrogation upon the completion of its investigation next week.
A source in the ICPC, who confided in one of our correspondents, said, “It is true that the ICPC is probing the activities of the permanent secretaries. About N292m was traced to the account of one of the recently retired permanent secretaries.
“The commission has concluded investigating some of the permanent secretaries while others are still being investigated. For those that we have concluded investigations on them, we have sent their files to relevant places for action.
“It is not exactly true that those who were not sacked by the President in the recent exercise are innocent. They are also being investigated.”
It was also learnt the ICPC had been investigating some directors and that the Federal Government had directed anti-graft agencies to place emphasis on recovery of funds from corrupt former public officers.
A Presidency source stated, “I can tell you that the focus of the government is changing. The President is more interested in recouping the stolen money.
“The President and his advisers are not unmindful of the fact that prosecution could take a long time. The President is more interested in recouping the money.
“What is happening is that the anti-graft agencies go for the facts, very strong facts that cannot be denied, confront the people with the evidence and ask them to return the funds if they don’t want to go to jail.
“And many of them are cooperating. I can tell you for sure that people are returning money.”
PUNCH Correspondent could not get the Resident Consultant, Media and Event, of the ICPC, Mr. Folu Olamiti, to react as his telephone indicated that it was switched off or in an area outside network coverage.
Buhari however on Thursday warned civil servants at all levels that his administration would not condone any act of indiscipline and corrupt practices.
He also justified his administration’s decision to drop the previous practice of administering written and oral examinations on civil servants for ascension to the rank of permanent secretaries.
Buhari spoke at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, shortly after administering oaths of office on 16 out of the 18 new permanent secretaries whose appointments were approved on Tuesday, after retiring 17.
The remaining two new permanent secretaries were said to be out of the country as of the time their appointments were announced and that they would take their oaths at a later date.
The President said the responsibilities bestowed on the permanent secretaries were enormous and that the success or otherwise of the government would depend on their competence, ability and capacity to discharge their duties effectively and efficiently.
He said, “I must, however, sound a note of warning. It is within public domain that ministers as chief executives of their ministries as well as other government officials involved in policy formulation and implementation often complain of the intolerable levels of incompetence, indifference or even suspected sabotage by some of the top echelons of the civil service.
“Even where permanent secretaries, in some instances, are exempted from these accusations, they are still responsible and liable for failing to provide the required leadership, control and direction.
“This administration will not condone any excesses, indifference, incompetence and corrupt practices in any form.
“Permanent Secretaries are therefore advised to note these words of caution and disseminate them to all civil servants accordingly.
“I am sure the permanent secretaries and all other civil servants appreciate the fact that I have always considered the civil service as an indispensable reservoir of experience, expertise and loyalty. I, therefore, consider the service as a dependable ally in my quest to change this country for the better.”
Buhari said if Nigeria would realise its full potential for greatness, its civil service must first understand and accept the “change mantra” of the present administration and lead its spread through all the institutions of governance and the economy.
He said his administration would give all the necessary support, protection and encouragement to the civil service to do its work, adding that he had faith in the ability and quality of the Nigerian civil service to provide stability and the desired change.