The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) on Monday said that it has uncovered a multi-billion naira scam in government ministries, agencies and parastatals.
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.
He made the startling revelation in the presence of President Muhammadu Buhari, Senate President Ahmad Lawan, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Mohammed, and the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Dr. Kayode Fayemi (virtually) and other top government officials.
“The TSA Illegalities”
He noted that government officials violated the sanctity of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) by perpetrating illegalities.
Daily Trust reports that the treasury single account is a public accounting system whereby government receipt, revenue and income are collected into one single account. The Central bank of Nigeria (CBN) is responsible for the maintenance and management of such account.
It was proposed by the federal government of Nigeria in 2012 under the ex-President Goodluck Jonathan administration and was fully implemented by the Buhari administration to consolidate all inflows from all agencies.
However, recent happenings suggest that the essence of the TSA has been compromised or not being implemented the way it should.
About one week ago, the federal government said plans have been perfected to take over direct custody of revenues generated by its key agencies as part of efforts to improve income generation and block leakages.
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, gave the hint at the opening of a three-day orientation programme for 50 directors of revenue who are to be posted to various Government-Owned Enterprises (GOE).
It was learnt that specialised directors from the Office of the Accountant- General of the Federation would be posted to 10 revenue-generating agencies of the government in the first instance.
What the ICPC chair said
During his presentation, Prof. Owasanoye particularly took a swipe at officials of some MDAs under the executive and the legislative arms of government as he carefully laid bare how they betrayed the trust vested in them.
Daily Trust made attempt to verify some of the allegations from those that matter but only a few of them responded.
Prof. Owasanoye said under the Open Treasury Portal review that was carried out between January and August 15, 2020, out of 268 Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), 72 of them had cumulative infractions running into billions.
He said while 33 MDAs tendered explanations that N4.1 billion was transferred to something called sub-TSA, N4.2 billion paid to individuals had no satisfactory explanations.
According to 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 findings.”
Prof. Owasanoye also said in the 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.
Contacted, the Director of Press and Public Relations of the Federal Ministry of Education, Mr Ben Bem Goong, said right from the start of the school feeding programme, it was never domiciled in the ministry and therefore could not comment on the allegations by the ICPC boss.
“It (school feeding) was first in the office of the Vice President and when the ministry of humanitarian was created, it was moved there.
That is why the minister has not been answering anything relating to school feeding. The ministry has never been part of it,” he said.
However, speaking on phone last night, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouq said they were not aware of the allegation and urged the ICPC boss to shade more light.
“Nobody has briefed me or brought my attention to the issue. The ICPC did not write to us regarding the alleged issue of diverting monies meant for school feeding.
“I want to assure you that we will definitely take it up with him so that he will clarify the allegations we made,” she said.
Late agric ministry official share ‘booty’ to cronies
Prof. Owasanoye also revealed that over N2.5 billion was appropriated by a late senior civil servant in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to himself and cronies.
He said the commission recovered N16 billion from the ministry of agriculture paid into individual accounts for non-official purposes.