© 2019 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
Budget and contract information missing on Ecological Fund Office’s website since 2016
THE Ecological Fund Office (EFO) receives three per cent of the monthly allocation from the Federation Account which runs into several billion, but the finances and expenditure of the agency are opaque.
EFO was established as an intervention facility to address the ecological problems ravaging communities across the country, and theFederal Government has committed a huge share of taxpayers’ money to the challenge on yearly basis.
But between 2016 and 2018, the amount received by the Fund has never been published in the public domain. Its official website that ought to contain long lists of completed projects, ongoing projects, names of contractors and consultants, as well as contract sum and amount paid, has not been ‘significantly’ updated since 2016, The ICIR can report.
The Fund has not operated an active website since April 26, 2017, when the profile of its Permanent Secretary, Habiba Lawal was uploaded.
Besides Lawal’s picture and a slide showcasing some projects executed by the Fund on its Home Page, other content categories on the site were dormant.
The ICIR visited the website to access information for an investigative reporting on Plastic Waste Recycling Plants project funded by EFO in 2009, but only the ‘Home Page’ and ‘About Us’ section contained sparse information.
The 26 plastic waste recycling plants were reported to have been completed and ready for commissioning as of November 2013 in a report by the EFO.
No content was however displayed in the segment marked “Completed Projects” on the website while there were scanty pictures of ongoing drainage projects in the section marked ongoing projects.
“Nothing Found. It seems we can’t find what you’re looking for. Perhaps searching can help,” was the response.
When the site’s search engine was used for the same purpose, it returned the message: “Search Results for: plastic waste recycling plants. Nothing Found.”
The categories that have contents include ”Department” which showed that the EFO has five departments: Permanent Secretary’s Office, Soil Erosion and Flood Control Department, Drought and Desertification Control Department, Pollution Control Department and Public Procurement Department. Each of the sections simply highlights the duties of the departments.
But under a section like Ecological Issues that ought to list the various ecological challenges facing the country, “the page could not be found” was the result when it was clicked by this reporter.
On its news and event page, there were only three items posted since 2016 namely – Profile of Habiba Lawal, Change begins with me at EFO, and highlights of achievements in 2016. But none of them could display any information. The result was just “oops, the page cannot be found.”
Other sections such as Tech Issues were also empty. The video gallery has just three videos while the photo gallery contains no picture.
The Ecological Fund Office is under the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF).
Its annual budget and other financial activities have not been made public and this reinforces concerns in the public domain on the transparency level of the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The Fund, like NNPC, FIRS and CBN have been known not to make their annual budget public despite the provisions of Section 21 of the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA) 2007.
In 2016, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the House of Representatives queried the EFO over the expenditure of N85 million for advertisement of its activities in 2010, and another N30 million which the office claimed was used to organise a stakeholders meeting.
The Fund was originally established in 1981 through the Federation Account Act (1981) based on the recommendation of the Okigbo Commission.
The Act has subsequently been modified by Decrees 36 of 1984 and 106 of 1992 respectively, and further modified through the Allocation of Revenue/Federation Account (modification) order of 8th July 2002.
The Fund which originally received 1 per cent of the Federation Account was reviewed upwards to 2 per cent of the Federation Account in 1992. From its inception in 1981, it has been a first line charge which provides handy resources for the amelioration of ecological problems such as soil erosion, flood, drought, desertification, oil spillage, pollution, general environmental pollution, storm, tornadoes, bushfire, crop pest, landslide, earthquakes etc.
The enabling statutes have over the years placed the Fund under the control of the Head of the federal government, to be disbursed and managed in accordance with such directives as may be issued from time to time.