NIWA: NASS uncovers over N6bn non-existing projects appropriated in 3 years
The National Assembly on Monday uncovered nonexisting projects including the acquisition of vessels and barges and procurement of dredgers and other related equipment for which over N6 billion were appropriated for National Inland Waterways Agency (NIWA) between 2017 and 2019 fiscal years.
The National Assembly made the discoveries during the 2019/2020 budget defence of Federal Ministry of Transportation and NIWA held at the instance of the joint Senate and House Committee on Inland Waterways, Land Transport, Ports & Harbors, and Marine Safety & Education in collaboration with the Senate Committee on Marine Transport.
The controversial projects are National Freight Office in Idi-Iroko, Ogun state for which total sums of N40.500 million was appropriated in 2017; N166 million in 2018; N99 million in 2019 while the sum of N400 million was proposed in the 2020 budget estimates of Federal Ministry of Transportation budget line item: ERGP 27102753.
Others include procurement of dredgers and other related equipment/vessels for which the sum of N1.5 billion was proposed in the NIWA’s 2020 budget estimate transmitted to the National Assembly.
The lawmakers observed that total sum of N2. 2 billion was appropriated for the project in 2018 Appropriation Act, while an additional sum of N1 billion was appropriated for the same project in the 2019 Appropriation Acts respectively.
Trouble started when one of the committee members from Ogun state who was familiar with the location where the fictitious project was carried out denied knowledge about the project in Idi-Iroko area of Ogun state.
In his intervention, Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Waterways, Hon. Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe, who frowned at various infractions noticed in the successive Appropriation Acts, harped on the need to conduct a thorough investigation into the alleged funds expended on the projects.
Speaking at the sideline of the budget defence, Hon. Jarigbe who harped on the need to investigate the status of the project and the utilisation of the funds appropriated before embarking on the approval of other sub-heads.
According to him: “The facts on this matter are on the budget proposal for 2020 and previous budgetary provisions. For instance, there was a line item that has to do with the construction of the National Freight Office in Idi-Iroko, Ogun state. In 2017, it appeared in the Appropriation Act in the sum of N40 million was pencilled down for that project. In 2018, N166 million was captured for that project an increment of over 400%.
“In 2019, it was repeated again the same budget line item it was N99 million and in 2020 it’s N400 million for the same budget line item, which makes it a total sum of N705 million, from N40 million to N400 million
“The astronomical increment on the project is unimaginable. There are other items on that budget, like NIWA, there is an item there, for instance in 2019 there was a provision of about N1 billion for the acquisition of dredgers and other related equipment/vessels and in 2020 there is a proposal of N2.7 billion. Meanwhile, the project appeared in 2018 at the sum of N2.2 billion.appropriated for that project.
“These show a lot of inconsistencies. When you look at the budgets it looks as if someone somewhere is just fixing figures and at the budget defence today I have to raise some of those issues and I also think these issues need proper clarifications before this budget is passed.”
He, however, noted that the controversial projects cannot be termed as fraudulent until the National Assembly conclude its investigation on the status of the projects identified.
To this end, the joint committee unanimously resolved to scrutinise the budgets of various agencies under the Federal Ministry of Transportation separately with the view to ensure value for public funds.