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ICPC Detects N2.67bn School Feeding Funds Diverted Into Personal Accounts

The sum of N2.67 billion paid to some Federal Colleges for school feeding during the lockdown has been traced to some private accounts, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) announced on Monday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

Another N2.5 billion appropriated for the Federal Ministry of Agriculture was also detected in the personal account of a deceased staff of the ministry who was also discovered to be in possession of landed assets including 18 buildings, 12 business premises and 25 plots of land.

ICPC Chairman, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye made the revelations at the 2nd National Summit on Diminishing Corruption themed: “Together Against Corruption and Launch of the National Ethics and Integrity Policy.”

Owasanoye said under the Open Treasury Portal review carried out by the anti-corruption agency between January to August 15, 2020, out of 268 Ministries, Departments and Agendas (MDAs), 72 of them had cumulative infractions of N90 million.

He said 33 of them gave explanations that N4.1 billion was transferred to sub-TSA, while 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,” the ICPC boss said.

Speaking further, he said under its 2020 constituency and executive projects tracking initiative, 722 projects with a threshold of N100 million (490 ZiP and 232 executive) was tracked across 16 states.

He also revealed 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 existing projects.

The ICPC chairman said some of the constituency projects were sited in private houses on private land thus appropriating common asset for personal use, while denying communities of the benefit.

Other anomalies cited include the absence of synergy between outgoing project sponsors and their successors.

He said the agency found out that uncompleted projects sponsored by legislators who do not return get abandoned, while some use companies owned by sponsor’s friends or relatives or companies belonging to civil servants in implementing MDAs to execute projects which are either abandoned or poorly performed.

“We discovered conspiracies between legislative aides of sponsors and implementing MDAs and contractors to undermine quality of project without knowledge of the sponsor; vague project description that result in diversion of funds by implementing MDAs or project sponsor with collusion of contractors and absence of community ownership of project because they were not consulted or largely ignorant of projects allocated to them,” he said.

The ICPC chairman said in 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.

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On asset recovery, Owasanoye said the commission recovered N16 billion from Ministry of Agriculture, paid into individual accounts for non-official purposes.

Speaking on the achievements of the agency, he disclosed that the ICPC secured N3 billion, through administrative Court and recovery of $173,000 through the whistle-blower unit of FMFB&P from an erring oil company, as well as £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 project 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,” he said.

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