ICPC uncovers N2.67bn School Feeding fund in private bank accounts

…I didn’t divert any funds – Farouq

About N2.67 billion meant for school feeding during lockdown has been uncovered in personal bank accounts, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) said Monday.

The Chairman of ICPC, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, said this in his 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.

Prof. Owasanoye, who said the payment was made to some federal colleges, also revealed that over N2.5 billion was appropriated by late senior civil servant in the Ministry of Agric for himself and cronies.

The commission highlighted other assets recovered in the Agric ministry to include 18 buildings, 12 business premises and 25 plots of land.

He said under 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.

According to Owasanoye, “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.”

Meanwhile, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajia Sadiya Umar Farouq has dissociated herself from a trending report in the media titled “N2.72b for School Feeding During Lockdown Diverted To Private Accounts.”

The report emanated after a presentation by the Chairman of ICPC, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye at the 2nd National Summit on Diminishing Corruption and was presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, at the Council Chambers of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Monday.

The report states thus “preliminary investigation had indicated that part of the N2.67billion was diverted to private accounts. It also revealed that over N2.5 billion was misappropriated by a senior civil servant (name withheld) in the ministry of agriculture and now deceased, for himself and cronies.”

The statement by Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) was twisted and misinterpreted by mischief makers and directed at the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs.

In a statement signed and released by the Special Assistant to the minister on media, Nneka Ikem Anizebe on Monday, it reads: “The Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development hereby informs the public that the Federal Government Colleges school feeding in question is different from the Home Grown School Feeding which is one of its Social Investment Programmes.”

“That the School Feeding under scrutiny is feeding of students in Federal Government Colleges across the country and is not under the ministry which only oversees Home Grown School Feeding for children in Primaries 1-3 in select public schools across the country.”

“That the Ministry or the Minister does not even handle or disburse funds for @NHGSFP.”

“That money for funding the Programme neither passes through the Minister nor the ministry.”

“That the over N2.5 billion which was reportedly misappropriated by a senior civil servant (name withheld) took place in a different ministry and not the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development.”

“That the ICPC recovered N16 billion worth of assets from the said ministry which was paid into an individual account for non-official purposes and not the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development.

“The Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs , Disaster Management and Social Development describes those casting aspersions on Minister Sadiya Umar Farouq as malicious and unfair and calls on the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to publish the names of persons, federal colleges and school heads whose names have been found to be associated with the missing funds and also freeze the accounts where the said funds were diverted.”

“The Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, therefore, calls on the general public to disregard the false reports being linked to the ministry as it is not in anyway involved n the Federal Government Colleges School Feeding.”

Continuing, the ICPC boss 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 existing projects.

He also observed 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 quality of project without knowledge of the sponsor; vague project description that result in diversion of funds by implementing MDAs or project sponsor with collusion of contractors and absence of community ownership of project because they were not consulted or largely ignorant of projects allocated to them.

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

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 micro finance 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.

The ICPC chairman, while speaking on asset recovery, said the commission recovered N16 billion from ministry of agriculture paid into individual accounts for non-official purposes.

Also recovered were payments to Agric contractors for no job done or over payment for jobs done, appropriation of projects to private farms of senior civil servants of the ministry.

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 whistle blower 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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