…Say funds to finance different government programmes
…Task media on balanced reporting
By Chris Ochayi
Over 180 civil society organizations under the aegis of Civil Society Groups for Good Governance, CSGGG, Friday, exonerated the Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola of any wrongdoing in the alleged payment over N4.6 billion into the accounts of staffs in the ministry.
The CSGGG, while making clarifications on the alleged fund’s disbursement raised by an online media, explained that the payment was effected to finance various different government programs across the country.
According to a statement made available to newsmen in Abuja, the President of CSGGG, Comrade Ogakwu Dominic, who rebuked the story in its entirety, warned against dragging the names of the ministry and Minister of Works and Housing Babatunde Fashola in the mud.
The group, while counseling the media on objectively of reportage, said, “First of it is very imperative to note that the role, the media can play as watchdog of the society is indispensable, hence the urgent need to also remember that information should not be published until adequate research is made and its coherence and completeness are achieved.”
It warned further that, “Misleading reports is capable of creating chaos, causing panic and hatred which could be detrimental to national development.”
The above assertion is premeditated on the fact that as the Fifth estate of the realm and as an organization averse to dishonesty, subterfuge and other sharp practices, we have duly made a research and carried out an independent investigation into the allegations above-mentioned,
Describing the allegation as misleading and lacking in merit, Comrade Dominic said, “We have decided to let the media in on the facts, and also to decry the constant mis-report against the person of Fashola during his time in office as the Minister of Works and Housing, who was accused of paying into accounts monies amounting N4.6 billon
“It may interest you to know that Olasehinde Micah, Ogueri Ugochukwu Pascal, Oluwadare Festus Oluwatayo, Adekunle Ogunfadebo, and Ahmad Mohammad, were all projects accountants of the Ministry accountants of the Ministry, and monies paid into their accounts was to finance different government programs making the accounts official accounts as it was tagged “Projects Account”; a situation which was even consented and appended by the office of the Accountant General of the Federation an official letter. (Documents to be provided upon request)
“Also, All MDA’s prior to Federal Treasury Circular No. TRY/A7 & B7/2020 OAGF/CAD/026/V.111/525 of 23rd June 2020, were engaged judiciously in the practice of usage of projects/programme accountants to finance various government programmes, direct labour projects and of course even payments of some personnel entitlements; All these was necessitated by a number of reasons among which are;
“GIFMS platform of any MDA is configured in a way that it does not recognize any person whose details were not readily imputed into the Particular MDA’s portal.
“Thus, specialized officers such as legal officers, medical officers, federal audit staff as well as Honourable Minister’s aids, some permanent secretary’s aids, the press and even some accountants whose salaries are domiciled with their specialized ministries to find it impossible to get paid by the ministry; hence the need to use projects accounts to act as intermediaries who after receiving such funds transfer same to the respective original beneficiaries.
“A project accountant was and is still necessary for the payment of right way survey fees as the payment platform does not recognize such beneficiaries. The funds, therefore, have to be paid into the project’s account before transferring the same to beneficiaries’ accounts in accordance with the approved breakdown and e-payment guidelines which thereafter retires according.
“Projects accountants were also used for payments of retired officers’ entitlement. The GIFMIS platform as you very well know is configured in a way that the moment an officer retires from service, his/her account is automatically deactivated which makes it impossible for any further transaction to be made into the account.
“The repatriation allowances and burial expenses in the case of deceased employees were paid through the use of project accountants.
“All Government program expenses such as that of the Production of Ducu Drama on Federal Roads Project, the annual council of works were paid through projects accountants. All such funds were paid through the officers’ account who worked with various committees in the utilization of the said funds in accordance with the approval and he retired the expenditure thereafter.
“Finally a reasonable number of staff was not enrolled on the ministry’s GIFMIS platform. Thereafter, the ministry resorted to usage of project accountants to facilitate general staff welfare during festivities.”
The CSOs explained further that, “It is true that huge amounts of monies in the accounts controlled by civil servants calls for immediate investigation, we however embarked on more research and confirmed that such action was carried due to some realities which are in the offing; the breakdowns of report on this situation are as follow;
“That the project accounts were opened with the consent of the office of the Accountant General of the Federation, which makes the accounts more like government sub-account.
“That all payments that passed through such accounts have duly approved payment vouchers by the appropriate authority.
“That all funds were transferred to the original beneficiaries in strict adherence to the e-payment guidelines. Evidence of transfers is herewith attached for your guidance.
“That the practice was a service-wide phenomenon and not peculiar to the Federal Ministry of works and housing.“That the practice had since been stopped by the Accountant General of the Federation.”
On the issue of right of way, the CSOs pointed out that, “The issue of right of way which is the legal right, established by usage or grant, to pass along a specific route through grounds or property belonging to another, and contrary to your representation published in the media space, appropriation before us for every recovery of right of ways nationwide is N2.3 billion and 700 million naira was cash.
This is to mean that there was no extra budgetary expenditure as claimed by the mediums. In addition to this, the funds were transferred electronically to the beneficiaries’ in line with the e-payment guidelines and extant rules. The project account was merely used because the payment platform does not recognize these beneficiaries.
“A project accountant does not need to be at different locations at the same time to transfer funds to approved beneficiaries or the committee members that go to the locations.
“Again, on the issue of paying YEZAD Investment Concept Nig. LTD twice for the same contract, we were informed that yes the same net amount of N49,761,904.76 was paid on the same day via the same mandate to the same contractor through the same accounts, but It was definitely for different contracts.
“The Ministry is of dual sectors and contracts were for different sectors, it has in common the same payment platform since it is under one ministry and duly all vehicles were delivered.
“To effectively drive home the need for proper investigation before any publication is made, the Minister Babatunde Fashola, has personally answered to all the anti-graft agencies interrogating the matter, such wasn’t reported but rather completely ignored.
“Also for clarity, indeed payment was made in respect of capacity building through the said project accountants in 2018 as reported but you gentlemen of the press need to also know that information’s’ at our disposal have revealed that it was not to the tune of the amounts reported, this is to say perhaps the figures were inflated by opponents and some unscrupulous elements to cause confusion and to push Nigerians into faulting and dragging the former minister.
“It is also crucial to note that the exercise took place, the programme was duly approved and all the enshrined procedures and protocols that had to be observed were observed and the funds transferred directly to the respective accounts of all the eligible beneficiaries.”