Published On: Tue, Jun 11th, 2013

Delta Commissioner, Okpara in Financial Mess…Allegedly Embezzles “Vision 2020” N150m

Delta State’s Commissioner for Economic Planning Kenneth Okpara

SaharaReporters has learned that Kenneth Okpara, Delta State’s Commissioner for Economic Planning, has been accused of pocketing N150 million from the state’s Vision 2020” funds.
Senior officials in the Delta State government, including a fellow commissioner, disclosed to our correspondent that, in 2011, Mr. Okpara had requested and received the sum of N150 million in order to host Vision 2020 events in October, November and December. “The Vision 2020 meetings were never held, but the commissioner went ahead to keep the funds,” said one of our sources.

Speaking on the issue, a Government House source lamented the spate of corruption in the state. “There are too many corrupt and fraudulent practices here. Now, it is the Economic Planning commissioner that is involved [in fraudulent practices],” said the source. He added that Mr. Okpara was “finding it difficult to give convincing account of the N150 million he collected since 2011 to host the Vision 2020 meetings. He was supposed to host the meeting in October, November and December 2011 but as we talk no meeting was held and the things he claimed to have expended the money [on] were not done.”
A cabinet member told Saharareporters that the Economic Planning commissioner had been receiving huge amounts of funds each month as Vision 2020 subvention. “His Excellency, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, ordered a stop to the subventions when the fraud was detected. He issued a stern warning to the commissioner,” said the source.
Asked why Mr. Uduaghan failed to remove the commissioner and hand him over to prosecutors, the commissioner said, “I won’t be surprised if His Excellency takes further action soon. He is still investigating what the commissioner did.”
Mr. Okpara was portrayed as a “greedy crook.” Several staff members of the Economic Planning Ministry in Asaba accused the embattled commissioner of extorting kickbacks from contractors who seek payment of monies owed them by the government. “He is good at collecting [a] percentage from contractors before payment is made. Any contractor who refuses to comply will have his or her money hanging until they part with the percentage,” a ministry employee alleged.
One of the workers said the small office Mr. Okpara rented for Vision 2020 has been closed for some time, “yet [the commissioner] till collects funds running into millions of naira for running this moribund Vision 2020.”
All our sources said the commissioner had not been able to offer a convincing account of how the funds he collected were spent. Contacted by phone, Mr. Okpara came across as upset and spoke angrily. “I am not answerable to anybody, even you, but the state governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan,” he said.
However, SaharaReporters obtained an email addressed to Chike Ogeah, the state commissioner of Information, by Omamuyovwi Edewor, a special assistant to Mr. Okpara. In the email, titled “Delta State Vision 2020: The True Story,” the aide stated that his aide received only the sum of N90 million, not N150 million.
The commissioner explained that expenditures included the printing and distribution of one thousand additional copies of the Delta State Vision 2020 Plan, the setting up of a secretariat for Delta State Vision 2020, and the purchase of a Toyota Hilux vehicle. In addition, the aide stated that the funds supported a two-week intensive course in January, 2013 with 50 participants. He said the training was certified by UNITAR, a globally recognized institution.
“It is instructive to note that with all that has been implemented, this Ministry has never approached EXCO for any other approval on Delta State Vision 2020 but has frugally managed the same 2011 release of N90,300,000 for the roadmap with a bank balance of over N33,000,000 (thirty-three million naira) as at April, 2013,” the commissioner explained through his aide.
Staff of the ministry acknowledged that Mr. Okpara bought a Hilux van, but they insisted that the commissioner’s claims about an “intensive training” for fifty people was false. “There was never any training that was done. And it is not true that the ministry printed and distributed additional copies of Vision 2020,” one senior official said. “It is all a bid [by Mr. Okpara] to cover up the fact that he cannot tell anybody how he spent the money he received as Vision 2020 subvention.”
Source: Saharareporters

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