A monumental fraud running into over N500 million is currently rocking the Delta State Contributory Health Commission.
The multi-billion naira scheme, which was inaugurated by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa in August 2016 after an executive bill passed into law by the Delta State House of Assembly, is headed by the Governor's crony, Ben Nkechika.
Speaking with SaharaReporters, a senior staff of the commission who asked not to be named, disclosed that "Dr. Ben Nkechika is running the commission like his personal clinic; and because of his relationship with the Governor, who made him the Director-General/Chief Executive Officer (CEO), no one dares challenge him."
“The commission's DG is busy amassing wealth without recourse to the purpose of which the commission was established to take care of health challenges of civil servants and individuals through their monthly salaries deductions," the official said.
"Some time ago, the sum of N350 million was released by the state government as a take-off grant meant to purchase computers, furniture and other vital needs of the commission, but this sum was misappropriated by the DG with fictitious vouchers. As we speak, millions of Naira are deducted every month from civil servants’ salaries to access medical services at designated hospitals and health care centres, but at the end no services are rendered.
"Another N150 million contingency fund of the commission, as well as N90 million released for advocacy by the commission, were also embezzled through fraudulent projects. The widespread corruption in the commission is being carried out by the DG in collaboration with some staff and government officials. The DG also gives kickbacks to some state government officials as well.”
Our correspondent reliably learnt that the Delta Ministry of Health, led by Mordi Ononye, Commissioner for Health, who supervises the activities of the commission, is always kept in the dark on the alleged corrupt and fraudulent practices of Nkechika who is said to boast of his relationship with the Governor.
"Things are not working here in the Delta State Contributory Health Commission. Since the commission was set up, nothing has been achieved apart from fraud and continued deductions of salaries of civil servants monthly, without rendering the services for which these salaries are being deducted every month. Nobody is talking because of fear, not even the health commissioner," another source in the commission alleged.
"The state primary healthcare agency does not even have any atom of knowledge of how the commission is being run by the Director-General. This was how Nkechika kept the former health commissioner, Nicholas Azinge, in the dark till the Commissioner was fired by the Governor. The highhandedness of the DG has gone out of control. He bought a new jeep, plots of land in core areas in Asaba and built two multi-million naira mansions in Abuja."
Many of civil servants interviewed by our correspondent described the commission as a scam by Okowa and his cronies, and lamented the "inhumane" deductions from their monthly salaries without rendering the services promised.
While calling on the Governor to set up a probe panel to investigate the activities of the commission, the civil servants threatened to invite anti-corruption agencies into the "scam".
Contacted on the issue, Vivian Nkechika, the Public Relations Officer of the commission, who is the DG's younger sister, said her boss had been informed of all the allegations and promised to respond "shortly", but had not done so at the time of the report.