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CONSTITUENCY PROJECTS: ICPC uncovers unspecified N3.9b allocation in 2019 budget

... University of Benin Teaching Hospital,UI, UCH others indicted for budget padding

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THE Independent Corrupt and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) says it has discovered a total sum of N3.9b embedded in the 2019 zonal intervention projects budget that is not allocated to any project or sector.

Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, Chairman of ICPC disclosed this in Abuja on Tuesday while speaking at National Summit on Diminishing Corruption in the Public Sector and Presentation of Integrity Awards.

“We can see the states where this money may be potentially taken if it is released,” Owasanoye said.

“Needless to say, we are persuaded sir that Mr. President will not allow the release of money embedded in the budget for no particular purpose.”

According to him, the breakdown of budgetary allocation for 2019 revealed that empowerment and capacity building take over 50 percent of the budget for Zonal Intervention Projects.

“If releases are made, these allocations cannot be effectively tracked except we adopt a different implementation approach,” he said.

Speaking on the tracking of constituency projects which the Commission commenced in April, the ICPC Chairman said Constituency Project Tracking Initiative covered the first term of President Muhammadu Buhari (2015 and 2018).

Explaining that Zonal Intervention Projects enjoy annually a captive budgetary vote of N100billion, Owasanoye, said the Constituency Projects Tracking Groups (CPTG) team monitored and completed the pilot phase consisting 255 projects out of 424 projects in 12 states spread across the six geo-political zones.

He said the total appropriation for the selected projects was N24.32billion out of which N22.27billion was awarded in contracts.

 Owasanoye said his agency has saved the government about N2billion in the recovery of diverted assets, such as equipment for schools, hospitals, farms, water or energy projects, marginal improvement from use or supply of substandard materials, recovery of money from overvaluation, identification of vulnerabilities and preventive measure for future projects.

He said the CPTG team also forced 34 contractors back to the site in several states and not fewer than 200 contractors have gone back to sites on their own volition.

“… we discovered that some agencies of government are favorites for embedding of constituency projects irrespective of their core mandate and capacity of these agencies to deliver or supervise projects. The attraction appears to be either corrupt tendencies within such agencies or the inherent weaknesses within them. Most notorious in this regard are Border Communities Development Agency and Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria.”

Owasanoye said the Commission also discovered gross abuse of personnel budget and inflation or padding of the nominal role when it conducted System Study and Review of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) practices.

“As at the time we went to press we had covered about 300 MDAs and the amount inflated was about N12b. As at today your Excellency we have discovered additional N6b making a total of N18.624b restrained by ICPC,” Owasanoye said.

Touching on the detail of the system study and review of MDAs, he said ICPC widened the use of its powers under section 6(b-d) of our enabling law to scrutinize the practices, systems and procedures of MDAs in respect of personnel cost from 2017 to July 2019 and 2018 capital development fund.

“Part of our preliminary findings… revealed gross abuse of personnel budget and inflation or padding of the nominal role,” he stated.

According to him, culprit MDAs are mostly academic and health institutions, which he said included University of Benin Teaching Hospital with padded N1.1billion personnel cost; Federal Medical Center, Bayelsa,  N915 million; Nnamdi Azikwe University, N907million; University of Jos, N896 million; University College Hospital Ibadan, N701million; Usman Dan Fodio University, N636million and University of Ibadan N558m.

He however, noted that institutions and all those implicated would be given the opportunity to explain themselves while investigations are on to confirm any credible explanations they may have.

“We have alerted the Minister of Finance of our findings and appropriate steps are being taken to ensure that implicated MDAs will not be able to spend the excess built into their personnel budget.

Let me note with regret sir that in the 2017-2018 fiscal year the balances recorded for personnel were wrongfully utilized by MDAs for other purposes due to lack of proactivity by late enforcement and related agencies. That sum amounted to N18.39billion,” he said.

The Commission, Owasanoye, said has recommended based on the findings, for full implementation of the president’s directive that MDAs not on IPPIS should not be paid as review shows that most of the guilty MDAS are not on IPPIS.

Speaking further, he said that it was found that some MDAs spent N9.2billion of capital funds on overhead related items contrary to extant financial regulations.

The Commission also found that some MDAs failed to remit tax and divert pension and NHIS deductions for unrelated payments thus aggravating the sufferings of other Nigerians.

 “Some MDAs abused the e-payment policy of government thus making payments through staff accounts instead of to actual beneficiaries.

“Most egregious in the current cycle of review is the Federal Ministry of Water Resources where N3.3b was paid out in about a month through the accounts of staff. ICPC arrested 59 directors from the ministry and investigation is ongoing,” he said.

He said the ICPC has recommended that diversion or non-payment or remittance of tax, pension, health insurance or any statutory deduction should attract dismissal of heads of the agencies and immediate prosecution.

“Should government accept this recommendation ICPC will furnish government with list of defaulting MDAs.”

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