Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja
The Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, yesterday reacted to a report alleging a fraudulent payment of about N4.6 billion under his watch in the ministry sometime between September and December last year.
Describing the online medium which published the report in various unprintable names, Fashola argued that if the payment of the money was suspicious in the first place, it wouldn’t have appeared in a public portal where it was picked up by the news medium.
According to the report which Fashola rebutted, the ministry under the minister’s watch paid the money into personal accounts of directors and staff in four months in violation of existing law.
The report stated that all the payments were dubious, stating that its checks indicted 21 officials of the former ministry of power, works and housing, before it was split into two ministries last year, to whose personal accounts tranches of funds were paid in the last third of 2019.
The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had also cashed in on the report to charge the minister to break his silence on the matter, and accused the ministry of allegedly frittering away public funds “to service some higher interests.”
However, in the statement he personally signed, Fashola stated that the publication followed in the same with other previous ones seeking to hang anything on him.
He maintained that the thought that a public officer would take such money on a consistent and repeated basis with impunity reveals the mindset of the purveyors of the news.
The minister added that the thought that the public officer who is trying to steal would be paying the money into his bank account where it can be found was incredulous, describing it as a “continuing line of a series of attack on Fashola.”
He said: “Clearly, no investigation was undertaken in respect of this publication as the report was from open portal. If it was from the open portal, then there was nothing to hide.”
The minister noted that a quick check could have revealed that payments like those ones occurred in many other ministries, and have been a source of concern reported in other media by compliance authorities.
He stated that ministers do not manage accounts and finances of ministries, saying Directors of Finance and Accounts (DFAs) are those who do the job, and that they are staff of the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation and seconded to the ministries as part of financial controls.
“In all, no money was stolen or is missing. There is no smoking gun to criminalise Fashola,” the minister declared.