Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Professor Bolaji Owasanoye on Monday said that the commission has uncovered diversion of part of the N2.67 billion payments made to some Federal Government Colleges for school feeding during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Prof. Owasanoye, disclosed this at the 2nd National Summit on Diminishing Corruption with the theme: “Together Against Corruption and Launch of the National Ethics and Integrity Policy”, at the event presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, held at the Council Chambers of the Presidential Villa, Abujasaid that preliminary investigation indicated that part of the N2.67billion was diverted to private accounts.
In his words: “We observed that transfer to sub-Treasury Single Account 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 were not in school, and some of the money ended up in personal accounts.
The ICPC boss also said that the anti-graft agency also recovered some assets in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture that includes 18 buildings, 12 business premises and 25 plots of land.
Owasanoye said under the Open Treasury Portal review carried out between January to August 15, 2020 with 268 Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), 72 of them had cumulative infractions of N90 billion, adding that while 33 MDAs tendered explanations that N4.1 billion was transferred to sub-TSA but N4.2 billion paid to individuals had no satisfactory explanations.
In the words of Owasanoye; “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.”
The ICPC boss further said that under Commission’s 2020 constituency and executive projects tracking initiative, 722 projects with a threshold of N100 million (490 ZiP and 232 executives) was tracked across 16 states just as he said 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.
He further said the ICPC also discovered that uncompleted projects sponsored by legislators that did not get reelected had such projects abandoned thus a loss to the community and the state.
The ICPC boss also said there were also 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 executed, adding that the conspiracy between legislative aides of sponsors and implementing MDAs and contractors usually undermine the quality of project without knowledge of the sponsor among other issues.
He noted that in the education sector, for instance, 78 MDAs were reviewed during which common cases of misuse of funds were uncovered, adding that 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.
Commenting on asset recovery, Owasanoye said the ICPC recovered N16 billion from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture that was paid into individuals accounts for non-official purposes, adding that also covered were payments to contractors in the Agric ministry for a job not carried out or overpayment for jobs done.
He also said that appropriation of projects to private farms of senior civil servants in the ministry were rampant, saying that the Commission also discovered N2.5 billion appropriated by an individual now deceased for himself and cronies.
He further said; “Other assets recovered include 18 buildings, 12 business premises and 25 plots of land. We have restrained or recovered by administrative or court interim and final orders assets above N3 billion, facilitated the 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.”