Authorities of the Bayelsa State police command yesterday identified the faces behind the N6billion fraud in the wage bill of the State Civil Service with the arrest of a top management staff member of the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) and 24 other senior civil servants in the state.
The investigators in charge of the probe into the alleged fraud have also uncovered a new pattern of lifestyle among the suspected civil servants with many of the arrested workers owning night clubs, hotels, exotic cars and luxury homes worth millions of naira.
While the scores of the senior staff of the State Civil Service arrested were attached to the Treasury and SUBEB, others have gone into hiding over the alleged list of suspects being compiled by the investigators into the case brought before them by the state governor, Hon. Seriake Dickson.
LEADERSHIP SUNDAY gathered that most of the arrested workers of the state government are made up of cashiers, accountants in various ministries and parastatals and are expected to explain their roles in the alleged inflation of the wage bill of the state and the duplication of nominal rolls of workers and alleged employment racketeering in the state.
Sources told LEADERSHIP SUNDAY yesterday that the action of the governor, is part of the probity and accountability policy of the present administration. The source revealed that the order was issued by the governor following reports that the alleged fraudsters on wage bill scam had launched a retaliatory attack against planned audit.
The source told LEADERSHIP SUNDAY that the suspected civil servants in the wage bill scam became powerful under the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan and Timipre Sylva in the state and confronted the political class whenever the issue of staff audit was raised.
They were associated with the failures of the three attempts by the Sylva administration to conduct audit of workers and co-opted the members of the state House of Assembly with “gifts” running into millions of naira for the revolt against the implementation of the 2010 due process and e-governance Bureau audit report that would have saved the state over N3billion lost to the scam.
Some lawmakers of the state House of Assembly and a former commissioner for local government and community development were said to have allegedly connived with some officials to inflate SUBEB’s payroll with over 100 ghost names.The former chairman and board members of SUBEB are said to be on the run.
Confirming the arrest at the weekend, Governor Dickson said the arrest of the civil servants was done to unravel the mystery behind the overbloated wage bill of the state amounting to N6bn.
Though Dickson failed to give the number of the apprehended civil servants, investigations by our correspondent revealed that 20 of them were already in detention at the Special Fraud Unit of the state police command.
He said most of the people arrested were officers of the treasury unit and lamented that the wage bill of the state was only second to Lagos State. “We have directed that investigation activities be conducted by security agencies as a result of which some senior officers mainly of the treasury unit were questioned concerning the overbloated nature of the wage bill. They are currently in custody and investigation is going on. This is just the beginning.”