OrderPaperToday – The House of Representatives Committee on Public Procurement, on Thursday, commenced investigation into allegations of fraud at the Project Development Institute (PRODA), an agency under the Ministry of Science and Technology, Enugu State.
The lawmakers are also probing a management crisis in the agency wherein the board chairman, Mr. Daniel Onje, who is said to have been removed from office, was alleged to have forged the letterhead of PRODA and interfered with procurement processes.
The Committee, after deliberation from the issues arising resolved that “PRODA should publish widely, denying Mr. Onje and making it public, his alleged falsification of the letterhead of the agency and impersonation of the chairman of its board”.
Mr. Onje who was not present at hearing of the House Committee, has however vehemently denied the allegations in a chat with journalists in Abuja, saying “at no time, was I suspended as chairman of PRODA; I’m still the chairman and even a letter by the Committee (of the House), inviting me for the hearing, addressed me as such.”
He also stressed that “my appointment is at instance and discretion of the President and not the National Assembly, so only the Presidency can remove me”.
While declaring the inquest open, the Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, said “it is hoped that the resolution reached at the end of this public hearing, will be a replica of the wishes of the stakeholders, but in consonance with the wishes of the public”.
Earlier in his commencement speech, chairman of the panel, Mr. Nasir Ahmed (APC-Kano), disclosed that the committee’s task, is the “investigation of the procurement deception, staff victimization and ongoing management problem in Project Development Institute(PRODA), Enugu under the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology “.
Mr. Ahmed however lamented that the officials of PRODA “have refused to appear before us,” adding: “With or without them, the investigation will continue and we will do a thorough job”.
Mr. Edet Akpan, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry and representative of the Minister of Science and Tech, Mr. Ogbonnaya Onu, admitted before the committee, that the absentee acting head of the agency, was fully briefed of the hearing.
He however, admitted that Mr. Onje was no longer the Chairman, and that his correspondence to the House using the agency’s letterhead, amounted to forgery and impersonation.
Mr. Akpan, said: “Comrade Dan Onje, is no longer the Chairman of PRODA; he was asked to step aside.”
The immediate past Acting Dg of the Institute, Mr. Nathan Abia-Bassey, in his reaction to the suspicions of fraud in contracting at the agency, indicted Mr. Onje and members of the board.