FG Probes N2.67bn School Feeding Fund Scandal

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By Kuni Tyessi

Following the embarrassment caused the federal government by the allegations made by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), that N2. 67billion meant for school feeding programme was traced to bank accounts of some public officials, the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, has directed that a full investigation be carried out to unravel more facts about the alleged fraud.

The minister’s directive is a sequel to queries issued by the Federal Ministry of Education to officials handling the school feeding programme on behalf of the 104 Unity Colleges.

However, the queries got some principals of the Colleges explaining that payments on meal subsidies to Unity Colleges on the Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS) platform is designed to accommodate individual officers of those colleges who are officially recognised to receive such payments and disburse the same to food vendors.

They said such payments were made into individual accounts because of difficulties encountered by farmers, local food vendors and market women who do not have Tax Identification Numbers (TIN), PENCOM and other requirements to access the payment platform themselves.

Some of the principals also explained that payments made during the lockdown period had to do with debts owed food vendors even before COVID-19, some of which are still pending, adding that these debts arose from irregular and inadequate budgetary allocations and releases over the years.

But Adamu who issued the directive yesterday in Abuja, noted that further investigation will establish the veracity of the claims to ensure that there is no diversion of public funds or misappropriation of the same.

In line with the minister’s directive, the ministry will collaborate effectively with officials of the ICPC to unearth the facts as well as find a lasting solution to the payment system for meal subsidies that will ensure accountability and transparency.

The Director, Press and Public Relations in the Federal Ministry of Education, Mr. Ben Goong, confirmed the minister’s directive in a statement issued yesterday in Abuja, titled: ‘ICPC, Education Ministry to collaborate on Unity Schools Investigation.’

The statement said: “Following the report of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission that the sum of N2.67 billion released to the 104 Unity Colleges during the COVID – 19 lockdown for meal subsidies found its way into individual accounts, the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, has ordered a full-scale investigation into the matter.

“In response to queries issued by the Federal Ministry of Education, the principals explained that payments on meal subsidies to Unity Colleges on the Government Integrated Financial Management Information System, platform is designed to accommodate individual officers of those colleges who are officially recognized to receive such payments and disburse the same to food vendors.

“This followed the difficulties encountered by farmers, local food vendors, and market women who do not have Tax Identification Numbers, PENCOM, and other requirements to access the payment platform.

“The principals also explained that payments made during the lockdown period had to do with debts owed food vendors even before COVID – 19, some of which are still pending, adding that these debts arose from irregular and inadequate budgetary allocations and releases over the years.

“The investigation is to establish the veracity of the claims to ensure that there is no diversion of public funds or misappropriation of the same.
“To this end, the ministry in line with the minister’s directive is to collaborate effectively with officials of the ICPC to unearth the facts as well as find a lasting solution to the payment system for meal subsidies that will ensure accountability and transparency.”