SAN FRANCISCO, September 28, (THEWILL) – The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) says it has uncovered the diversion of part of the N2.67 billion payments made to some Federal Colleges for school feeding during the COVID-19 lockdown.
The discovery is not surprising because the media including THEWILL and activists had at different times warned that the programme is being abused by officials, who are conniving with contractors to fleece billions of naira from the scheme.
The anti-corruption agency disclosed this on Monday during its 2nd National Summit on Diminishing Corruption and launch of the National Ethics and Integrity Policy at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.
Chairman of the Commission, Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, said preliminary investigation had indicated that part of the N2.67billion was diverted to private accounts. He added that the Commission also discovered over N2.5 billion appropriated by a deceased senior civil servant in Ministry of Agriculture for himself and cronies.
“Other assets recovered in the Ministry of Agriculture include 18 buildings, 12 business premises and 25 plots of land”, the anti-graft boss added.
He said under Open Treasury Portal review carried out between January to August 15, 2020, out of 268 Ministries, Departments and Agendas (MDAs), 72 of them had cumulative infractions of N90 million.
“While 33 MDAs tendered explanations that N4.1 billion was transferred to sub-TSA, N4.2 billion paid to individuals had no satisfactory explanations. 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 findings”, he added
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 executives) were tracked across 16 states.
In education sector, he said 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.”
On asset recovery, Owasanoye said the commission recovered N16 billion from Ministry of Agriculture paid into individual accounts for non-official purposes. 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.”