Crime and Security

N2.67bn school feeding funds found in private pockets

N2.67bn school feeding funds found in private pockets

At last, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission ICPC has exposed the fraud shrouding the purported schooling feeding programme during the COVID-19 lockdown.

The anti graft agency said it has uncovered up to N2.67 billion meant for school feeding during the COVID-19 lockdown, locked inside personal bank accounts of government officials.

 Chairman of ICPC, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, made this known, Monday, September 28, while delivering a keynote address at the second National Summit on Diminishing Corruption, with the theme: “Together Against Corruption and the launch of the National Ethics and Integrity Policy” held at the Council Chambers of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

 Owasanoye also revealed that it recently uncovered over N2.5 billion diverted by a deceased senior civil servant in the Ministry of Agriculture and his cronies. He also shed light on other assets recovered in the Agric ministry to include 18 buildings, 12 business premises and 25 plots of land.

 The ICPC boss said under the Open Treasury Portal review carried out between January to August 15, 2020, out of 268 Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), 72 of them had cumulative infractions of N90 million. He said while 33 MDAs tendered explanations that N4.1 billion was transferred to sub-TSA, N4.2 billion paid to individuals had no satisfactory explanations.

Owasanoye said: “We observed that transfers to sub-TSA was to prevent disbursement from being monitored. Nevertheless, we discovered payments to some federal colleges for school feeding in the sum of N2.67 billion during lockdown when the children are not in school, and some of the money ended up in personal accounts. We have commenced investigations into these finding.”

 According to him, under its 2020 constituency and executive projects tracking initiative, 722 projects with a threshold of N100 million (490 ZiP and 232 executive) was tracked across 16 states.

 He noted that a number of projects described as ongoing in the budget were found to be new projects that ought to have been excluded in order to enable the government to complete existing projects.

Also, he observed that the absence of needs assessment resulted in projects recommended for communities that do not require them being abandoned; projects sited in private houses on private land thus appropriating common asset to personal use, hence denying communities of the benefit; absence of synergy between outgoing project sponsors and their successors.

 Owasanoye added that the commission also found that uncompleted projects sponsored by legislators who do not return get abandoned to the loss of the community and the state; use of companies owned by sponsor’s friends or relatives or companies belonging to civil servants in implementing MDAs to execute projects which are abandoned or poorly performed; conspiracy between legislative aides of sponsors and implementing MDAs and contractors to undermine the quality of project without knowledge of the sponsor; vague project description that results in the diversion of funds by implementing MDAs or project sponsor with the collusion of contractors and absence of community ownership of the project because they were not consulted or largely ignorant of projects allocated to them.

 Prof Owasanoye said in the education sector, 78 MDAs were reviewed and common cases of misuse of funds were uncovered.

 He listed some of the discoveries to include life payment of bulk sums to individuals/staff accounts, including project funds; non-deductions/remittance of taxes and IGR; payments of unapproved allowances, bulk payment to microfinance banks, payment of arrears of salary and other allowances of previous years from 2020 budget, payment of salary advance to staff, under-deduction of PAYE and payment of promotion arrears due to surplus in Personnel Cost, abuse and granting of cash advances above the approved threshold and irregular payment of allowances to principal officers.

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