By Goddy Egene
As the probe panel currently investigating the suspended Director General of the Securities and Exchanges Commission (SEC), Arunma Oteh, is about to submit its report to the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, any moment from now, indications have emerged that staff members of the commission are opposed to her return as the DG of the apex regulator of the market.
Sources close to the SEC said the members of staff have vowed to frustrate any attempt to reinstate Oteh, because of her penchant for the violation of public service process, breach of corporate governance and high arrogance in the running of the affairs of the commission.
It was gathered that under the suspended DG, among other breaches, the commission employed 31 top officers without due application, observance of recruitment processes and approval contents as provided in the institution’s recruitment guideline.
The breach, which is believed to have been one of the major issues in the organisation, was said to have pitched the top management against the director-general and has been a major source of de-motivation to the existing employees.
Our further investigations reveal that 31 of the unapproved employments are made up of two directors, four deputy directors, one assistant director and 24 senior managers and supervisors.
It was also observed that all the 31 unapproved employees may have been placed on ranks that are not in agreement with the SEC format because some of the employees had their national youths service programme between 1988 and 2004 and were placed on the rank of deputy directors .
Indications also emerged that some of the accounts that were used in the payment of the controversial Project 50 funds are owned by some of the unapproved employees (Dublysees Enterprises etc).
THISDAY can also report that under the employment criteria always applied by SEC, no individual, even the director-general, has the right to carry out any employment without recourse to the executive management.
The process has been that the executive management approves the employment and promotion of junior staff members while the Board approves those of the senior staff. But this procedure was violated by Oteh.
THISDAY gathered that in January 2011, when the plan by the Human Resources department failed to get Messrs KPMG to undertake executive recruitment for SEC, the DG routed for the services of ExecutiveSurf and Phillip Consulting to carry out recruitment for the institution but, according to our records, the approval was given this year when the employments were concluded two years before even without any of the two institutions.
However, an internal management audit, in a memo dated October 21, 2011 had rebuked SEC management by advising that it must insist on the corporate policy of the institution on recruitment.
According to the audit report,”there was no board approval nor ratification for the engagement.......Apart from the Board approval engagement process of interview was not followed. Only four out of the 31 were interviewed by persons whom their engagement by the commission could not be verified. The implication is that the purpose of checks and balances for which the board is in lace may be defeated. The 31 names should be referred to the board for ratification”.
The report also noted that the terms for contract staff were flouted as the institution flouted some Civil Service rule.
Besides, Oteh was said to have approved and purchased two Toyota land Cruisers at the cost of N37.555 million and one Toyota double cabin Pick-Up used as pilot car for N5 million despite the Federal Government’s policy on monetization of official vehicle for public officers.
Sources said this expenditure was not approved by the Tenders Board of the commission, adding that even though Tenders Board meetings were scheduled, each time Oteh, who is the chairman was invited, she failed to attend.
It was gathered that the suspended DG does not value time as vital in granting approval for capital market issues and other operational activities. Sources said before her assumption of office, applications for securities issues took an average of two days by the past DG.
“Today, some applications take minimum of two months. This unfortunate situation, it was learnt, constituted a deal of pressure on the issuers and issuing houses, which leads to information adjustments by issuers and issuing houses.
“Since her suspension from office, things have been moving faster. Even the registration meeting, which has refused to hold for reasons best known to you’re her, was held in Lagos recently by the new management so as to address accumulated applications from market operators who had sought to register for various functions in the market in the past 18 months.”
This is positive development that must be encouraged instead trying to bring back somebody who had retarded the growth of the market. And any attempt to reinstate her would be stopped by the staff members,” a source said.
The staff union of the commission had last Wednesday vehemently condemned Oteh’s continuous attendance of the Economic Management Team meetings of the Federal Government on grounds that she was still being investigated for alleged corrupt practices.
Addressing journalists at SEC headquarters in Abuja, chairman of the union, Mr. Salihu Mohammed, said her continuous presence at the meetings had far reaching negative implications particularly on the volatile capital market which is integrity-driven.
“We are of the view that the representation of Oteh at the meeting of the Economic Management Team is therefore in total disregard of due process and rule of law and capable of sending mixed signals to the market, which may negatively affect it.”
But reacting to the union’s demand, a close aide of the embattled DG told THISDAY in a telephone chat that the concerns of the staff members were out of order as they did not have the power to decide whether or not Oteh should attend the meeting.
However, Mohammed further maintained that: “The present administration of President Goodluck Jonathan has shown that it respects the principle of the rule of law and such should be seen to uphold it in this instance too.”
He said that national interest should be allowed to take pre-eminence over personal interest by advising Oteh to refrain from attending any official assignment in the course of ongoing enquiries into the mismanagement of fund in the commission’s “Project 50” programme.
He added that: “There is an acting DG in place, duly appointed by the Federal Government and therefore, should be allowed and indeed empowered to function in that capacity. The capital market is dynamic and information driven and only someone in that position can better serve the purpose of the Economic Management Team and any other official government function.”
The union consequently demanded that the government should “restain Oteh from further attendance of the meetings or such other functions in the capacity of the DG SEC pending the conclusion of investigation against her.”
THISDAY checks revealed that since the DG was suspended over a month ago, she has not rested on oars, as she has embarked on heavy lobbying mission by enlisting top traditional rulers, governors and political top brass and business moguls to help prevail on the President Goodluck Jonathan for her to return to her seat.