A row has broken out in the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) over the payment of N1.45billion legal and consultancy fees by the management.
A lawyer got paid N950million for the liquidation of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) when the company had ceased to exist and the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation got N500 million for consultancy.
The fees were paid contrary to the advice of the immediate past Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke (SAN) and the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), it was learnt.
Also, top directors of the BPE have been implicated in a job racket after 60 hands were hired a few days to the exit of the administration of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan.
Most of the workers were said to be the children and relatives of the directors, contrary to the ethics of the agency.
The pioneer chairman of BPE, the late Hamzat Zayyad, put a code of conduct which forbids any employee from hiring his or her relations in the agency.
Investigation by our correspondent revealed that the curious legal fee of N950million was paid after a meeting of the National Council on Privatisation (NCP) was hurriedly convened by ex-Vice President Namadi Sambo on April 18.
At the session, it was learnt that the NCP members were deceived into believing that the former AGF and the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) had withdrawn their letters of objection to the payment of the N950million.
A source said: “There is disquiet in BPE over the payment of N950million to a PDP lawyer to wind down PHCN. The payment was just unnecessary because the liquidation of the PHCN had been concluded since 2013. So, it was shocking to some members of the management that such a curious huge bill came for no service provided in 2015. We suspected that the payment was a slush fund to offset campaign expenses.
“By the Power Sector Reform Act of 2005, the Federal Government had unbundled the National Electric Power Authority into 11 distribution companies and six generation firms. These were the companies we privatised in 2013. The PHCN then ceased to exist. There was no formal need to wind down PHCN in 2015 to the extent of paying N950million.”
A source in the Ministry of Justice said: “By our records, the former AGF opposed the payment of the N950million as legal fees to the said lawyer because the liquidation of PHCN had long been completed.
“Even the ex-AGF said assuming that the NCP was talking of nominal liquidation, the accruing legal fees ought not to be more than N50million.
“The records are there for the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari to examine all the correspondences.”
As the BPE was trying to wriggle itself out of the legal fee scandal, two fresh issues have caused tension in the agency.
It was learnt that the management was shocked that another N500million was paid to the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation for “consultancy service.”
“They told us that the N500million was approved by NCP as consultancy payment to the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation. There was no specific consultancy job given to the OAGF,” a director added.
It was also learnt that about 60 workers, mostly relations of the top directors in BPE, were recruited three weeks to the end of Jonathan’s administration.
The source said: “Out of the 60 new workers, 22 who had been casual workers for five years were retained when even there is no provision for casual jobs in BPE.
“The directors shared the appointments without recourse to the Federal Character Principle. For instance, one brought his daughter, four also employed their children and another engaged his ‘wife’ or mother of his children.”