FG Queries Perm Sec for Buying Uncompleted Building for N7bn

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Raheem Akingbolu

The Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Science and Technology, Dr. Muhammed Umar Bello, has been asked by the presidency to explain why N7,044,746,264.06 was spent on the purchase of uncompleted building without the conduct of the mandatory statutory structural and mechanical integrity tests and prior approval of the FCDA Public Building Department. After purchase, the building was eventually found to be an uncompleted carcass, requiring billions of naira to complete and make safe for occupation.

In a preliminary letter/query issued on May 11, 2020 and signed by the Head of Service of the Federation, Dr. Folasade Yemi-Esan, copy of which was obtained by THISDAY, Bello was alleged to have used his position as Permanent Secretary and Accounting Officer, to engage in acts of serious misconduct which, if proven, could lead to dismissal from service.

According to the letter, in spite of the budgetary release of the N98, 405,763,678.68 in 2018 (which represents 99.44 of 2018 appropriation) to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Bello as the permanent secretary did not take necessary action to pay the eligible contractors, which led to the ministry having an outstanding contractual liability in the sum of N48,429,543,895.72.

It was also stated that under his leadership, the ministry utilised the entire 2019 first quarter release of N7,737,208,135.18 to pay for the 2018 contractors that were fully funded in 2018 which, Presidency admitted it constituted virement without authority.

As Accounting Officer, Bello was said to have overseen a transaction for the purchase of a building for the use of the Ministry at the sum of N7,044,746,264.06 without the conduct of the mandatory statutory structural and mechanical integrity tests and prior approval of the FCDA Public Building Department. After purchase, the building was eventually found to be an uncompleted carcass, requiring billions of naira to complete and make safe for occupation.

In the same manner, the letter stated that under Bello’s watch, the Ministry procured seven drilling rigs for borehole at an average cost of N300, 000,000, without recourse to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) or Head of Service of the Federation.

However, in April 2019, the embattled Permanent Secretary was said to have given out the seven rigs procured at N1.3 billion to some individuals under fraudulent arrangement, without the approval of the minister, and one of the rigs linked to him, was yet to be returned despite several written reminders as at the time the query was issued.

Bello was also alleged to have misapplied the intervention funds approved for the purchase of strategic grains and the establishment of the rural grazing areas settlements in violation of financial regulations.