N2.67bn school feeding funds siphoned to private accounts ― ICPC

• Another N2.5b found in deceased Agric ministry staff's account

The Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, has revealed that the sum of N2.67 billion meant for school feeding during the coronavirus lockdown has been traced to some private accounts.

He said the money was released when the children meant to be fed with it were not in school.

The ICPC boss disclosed this on Monday in his keynote address at the second National Summit on Diminishing Corruption with the theme: “Together Against Corruption and Launch of the National Ethics and Integrity Policy”.

The event held at the Council Chambers of the presidential villa, Abuja.

He also disclosed that over N2.5 billion was appropriated by a senior civil servant in Federal Ministry of Agriculture to himself and his crimes, noting that the culprit is now late.

The ICPC Chairman also said assets have been recovered from the Agriculture ministry including 18 buildings, 12 business premises and 25 plots of land.

According to him, under Open Treasury Portal review carried out between January to August 15, 2020, out of 268 Ministries, Departments and Agendas (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 stayed: “We observed that transfers to sub-TSA were 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.”

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The ICPC chairman also said 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 government complete exiting projects; 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 further said 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.

In the education sector, he said 78 MDAs were reviewed and common cases of misuse of funds were uncovered.

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According to him, some of the discoveries 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.

On asset recovery, Owasanoye said the commission recovered N16 billion from the ministry of agriculture, paid into individual accounts for non-official purposes.

Also covered were payments to Agric contractors for no job done or overpayment for jobs done, appropriation of projects to private farms of senior civil servants of the ministry. It also discovered N2.5 billion appropriated by an individual now deceased for himself and cronies.

Other assets recovered include 18 buildings, 12 business premises and 25 plots of land.

He said. “We have restrained or recovered by administrative or court interim and final orders assets above N3 billion, facilitated recovery of $173,000 by the whistleblower unit of FMFB&P from an erring oil company, retrained £160,000 in a UK-bank in an ongoing interim forfeiture. These figures exclude quantum of recoveries on return or contractors to site as a result of projects tracking initiatives.

“It should, however, be noted that some of these assets are subjected to ongoing cases and where suspects proved their cases physical or liquid assets will be released in accordance with laid down laws, guidelines or court directives.”

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