NEC: Social Investment Programme Marred by Fraud, Corrupt Practices

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  • Paltry 15.8 % of budgeted N1 trillion spent in 2016, 2017

Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja

The federal government’s social investment programme is characterised by large scale corruption and fraud, the National Executive Council (NEC) disclosed Thursday.

Briefing State House correspondents at the end of the monthly NEC meeting in the Presidential Villa, the Special Adviser to the President on Social Investment, Mrs. Maryam Uwais, said the programme was hampered by corruption and racketeering by some officials in the states whom she said took advantage of the level of prevalent illiteracy and poverty among aged citizens to perpetrate malpractices.

She also stated that some of the gatemen extort money from those seeking to obtain loans, emphasising that states were implored to assist in stopping these corrupt cases characterising the programme, adding that they were encouraged to assist beneficiaries in opening personal accounts and also generating bank verification numbers (BVN) for them.

She said they were also implored to assist in screening and training of cooks handling the school feeding programme.

The special adviser who put the number of beneficiaries of the programme so far at 7,821,201, added that only 15.8 per cent of the N1 trillion budgeted for the programmes in 2016 and 2017 had been spent. She described the amount as the release made to her office by the federal government.

In view of the corrupt practices impeding the implementation of the programme, Uwais said her office had pleaded with governors to assist it in stemming the tide of the situation in their various states.
According to Uwais, who admitted that her office is weak in monitoring, said traditional rulers, the Department of State Services (DSS), Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and National Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) had been engaged to help in apprehending perpetrators of the fraud.

“Total actual spending in 2016 and 2017 is 15.8 per cent of amount appropriated. This is the amount that has been released out of the budget appropriated for Social Investment Programme.

“We identified seven challenges relating to corrupt practices by some state officials, racketeering, taking advantage of the level of illiteracy of the women who are poor and illiterate. Their vulnerabilities are exploited. We pleaded with state governors to take more interest in what is going on so they can be protected. We are weak in monitoring.

“So, we also asked the state governors to support us with logistics. In some communities, we can only access them through bush paths and see how they can support us with offices for their own staff and all that is required for us to operate seamlessly in the states. We mentioned that we are collaborating with certain organisations within the federal government which have presence in the states and are helping us with monitoring.

“We engaged traditional rulers. We engaged DSS. We engaged EFCC where fraud is involved because we really need to monitor and we also engaged the civil defence which has agreed to give us armed policemen and also armed civil defence to guard the women the day they are being paid. We asked for some assistance. For example where some of the state officials act as gate keepers. They charged the beneficiaries who apply for loans certain amounts. So, we asked the states to take better interest and to stop those malpractices because they are actually cheating these people who are already poor.
“We ask states to facilitate the generation of BVN and opening of accounts for some of these people and also to form cooperative so that they can access our loans. For the school feeding, we asked them to fast track the commencement of the programmes in states where they haven’t started.

“We asked them to assist us in screening the cooks and also training them and also strengthening the monitoring and evaluation because we keep seeing or hearing stories of what is happening and we are trying to curtail those but because of the remoteness of some of these communities, the information doesn’t come to us early enough but we are encouraging everybody to give us feedback; to tell us what kind of food is being fed to the children because we have come to agreement to set menu of nutritional content required for children of that age,” she stated.

Also at the briefing, the Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Oluranti Adebule, said the audit of 18 revenue generating agencies including the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), and Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agencies (NIMASA), among others, conducted by KPMG revealed several cases of under-remittance and late remittances into the various accounts by the agencies.

She therefore said the committee which co-ordinated the audit recommended that NEC should decide on repayment plans for all concerned as well as stepping up oversight functions on relevant agencies to ensure proper remittance as well as proper and regular audit of the amount of the revenue generated by agencies. “There is also the need for annual review of the agencies,” she added.

On his part, Akande reported the submission of the Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, to the council on the balances in the federation accounts as of February, 14, 2018.
According to him, the balance in excess crude account stood at $2,317,252,449.57; N11,290,664,060.06 in the stabilisation account and N123,624,644,411.24 in natural resource account.