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Age Falsification & Retirement Manipulation Rocks Anambra LG Service Commission

Governor Willie Obianio’s avowed zero tolerance for corruption is poised for a critical test following the discovery of a scam in the retirement of personnel in the Anambra State Local Government Service Commission.

Orient Daily findings show that some top officials of the commission are already strategising on how to cover up or wriggle out of messy practice of age falsification and reshuffling of service records to prolong the service and, thereby, delay the retirement date of some favoured officials. Bogus records used to push back the retirement dates of officers anxious to by-pass the standard civil service retirement rules in the commission were sighted by this paper.

Orient Daily investigations reveal that hundreds of staff of the local government service commission overdue for retirement in the state are still in service and denying young graduates the opportunity of being gainfully employed, an act that affects the socio-economic development of the state.

It was also gathered that this practice of manipulation of employment records to retain those top officials in the civil service commission was the reason the Anambra state government had not advertised recruitment of fresh personnel into the commission in recent times. Our findings show that while some of the culprits connived with the leadership of the commission (past and present) to extend their service timeline, others simply bribed their way through, either distortion of age or records of service so as to prolong their service and, possibly, garner promotion.

It will be recalled that the last official recruitment in the state was in 2013, at the twilight of the Peter Obi administration, an exercise that employed about 6,000 workers after an over 10-year embargo on recruitment in the state.

A similar scenario played out in 2017 when Governor Willie Obiano expressed intent to recruit over 5,000 teachers but not without its own peculiar challenges as Orient Daily authoritatively gathered that some stakeholders, including traditional rulers, political office holders, top government functionaries and religious leaders were asked to submit list of their preferred candidates for the exercise to the detriment of those that passed the recruitment examination on merit.

In 2014, the Anambra state government set up a tripartite committee to conduct a biometric re-verification exercise in the 21 local government areas of the state whose report indicted many senior staff of the commission over age falsification.

It was also gathered that eight years after the exercise, the commission is yet to come up with stiff penalty for the offenders as they are still in service and the employ of the state government.

Similarly, the personnel audit report on the 21 local government areas in Anambra state which made its report public on August 15, 2006, also discovered a lot of irregularities and sharp practice in the commission, again bordering on age falsification and irregular promotions.

Specifically named in that report, a copy of which Orient Daily has,and the observed irregularities were Mr.Odinweruka C.O, G.E Nwafor, Mrs.Oge Chudi-Ezelum (no First School Leaving Certificate), Dr. Mrs. Helen Ozokwere (irregular promotion), Mr. F.E.Ekulide (irregular promotion), Mr. J.I Akubue (false age declaration), Mrs. V.N.Nwankwo (irregular promotion) among others.

It was also observed that some supposed retirees who are still under the state government employ are now secretly removing some of their personal belongings in their exalted offices following a recent directive by the state government that such staff, if caught, would be compelled to face the law.

Worried by the continued falsification of age in the local government, the Anambra State Local Government Service Commission, in a letter dated May 16, 2018, issued the red card to culprits who still enjoy Anambra state largess while their retirement were overdue. The state commission, in the letter,advised such persons to retire voluntarily within one month or be embarrassed.

The warning was with effect from May 28, 2018 as contained in the letter.

In the said letter which was signed by the Secretary and Head of Local Government Areas in the state, Mr. Udokwu Onyedibiemma on behalf of the Chairman, Local Government Service Commission, Dr. Peter Egenti, cited the report of the biometric re-verification exercise conducted in 2014 by the tripartite committee set up by the state government which compelled staff who falsified their date of birth to urgently submit their real dates of birth.

The letter addressed to the 21 local government Transition Committee Chairmen in Anambra state with reference number: ANS/LGSC/PER/0386/T/ was titled: ‘Officers Overdue for retirement: Offer of voluntary retirement.

It read thus: “I am directed to refer to the above caption and to observe that from past personnel audit reports and other findings, many top officers and others who ought to have retired are still in service.

“The Board of the Local Government Service Commission has resolved to give all those concerned one month of grace for voluntary exit. This is with effect from28 May, 2018.

“The Board has also directed that all those who submitted new dates of birth and those who refused to comply are given two weeks to come to the commission with their new records or face compulsory retirement.”

Speaking to Orient Daily in Awka, an elder statesman and a retiree of the State Local Government Service Commission, Mr. Chinedu Ekwuno, attested to the fact that corruption at the local government service commission over age falsification had been there over the years but blamed the unethical act on the present chairman of the commission, Dr. Peter Egenti, whom he accused of shielding the culprits.

Ekwuno, indeed, identified some four officers (names withheld) whom he said were overdue for retirement but who still remain in the service.

According to him, the “retirement policy stipulates that a staff will proceed on mandatory retirement upon attainment of thirty five (35) years of service or sixty (60) years of age whichever comes first.

“Nevertheless, there are some management staff in the Anambra state local government system who have falsely reshuffled their record of service thereby over staying their tenure in service. Yet, they are being shielded by the chairman of the Anambra State Local Government Service Commission, in the person of Sir Peter Egenti.

“For the names I called, I can prove my case beyond reasonable doubt because the recently released circular letter No.ANS/LGSC/PER/0386/T of May 16, 2018 did not include their names and that is why I make bold to name them for verification.

He, therefore, prayed the Anambra state government to kindly ensure their immediate withdrawal from service with retrospective effect from the dates they were deemed to have retired. He also called on the governor to ensure the recovery of excess salaries and allowances paid them after dates they were deemed to have retired from service to serve as deterrence to others while wondering the motive behind age falsification while young ones are seeking for job.

The Anambra state chairman of the Local Government Service Commission, Dr. Peter Egenti did not pick several calls put across to him by this reporter but, in response to the text message sent to him on June 19, 2018, directed this reporter to the Commission’s Public Relations Officer, Mr. Nnamdi Nweke who gave the reporter an appointment for June 21, 2018.

At the said appointment, the PRO requested for the questions in writing which the reporter provided as follows: “It was learnt that the 2006 audit report indicted some top officials of the LG Service Commission on wide range of issues including age falsification and irregular promotion; why has the commission failed to act on the report so far?

“The Commission recently issued a circular, warning all local government employees that are due for retirement to voluntarily retire; what is the level of compliance so far and what is your next line of action? Is it proper to beg people due for retirement to voluntarily quit?

“The Chairman of the Commission, Dr. Peter Egenti, was accused of shielding the offenders; is that true?”

Rather than respond as directed, the public relations officer said he needed to consult some stakeholders in the commission before responding to the questions. After some 25 minutes, he returned to the reporter, saying that the commission had decided to ask the reporter to hang on with the report till the end of their investigations.

“We will make the information available to you at the appropriate time” he said.

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