The Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, muddled the facts Monday as he reacted to a PREMIUM TIMES exposé on how, under his watch, a suspicious lodgment of N4.6 billion was paid into the private accounts of some employees of the ministry in the last quarter of 2019.
In what he suggested was a witch hunt, Mr Fashola said the suspicious payments were not peculiar to his ministry as they occur in other ministries.
The minister, a lawyer himself, said this despite chapter 7, section 713 of the financial regulation of the civil service barring agencies of government from paying such monies into private accounts.
He said the payments were made to public officials who were not on the Integrated Payment Platform and Information System (IPPIS), the nation’s payroll portal for government’s employees.
The minister, however, did not provide a list of the ultimate beneficiaries of the funds and the reasons for which they were paid. He also did not explain his claim that some government officials are not on Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS). All government employees, except those newly recruited, are on IPPIS.
IPPIS is an information Communications Technology (ICT) project initiated by the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of payroll administration for its Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
This newspaper also found that Mr Fashola’s position on IPPIS is not true as the payment records on the open treasury portal showed the slew of funds was paid for capital expenditure, not recurrent.
Also, the director of finance in the now standalone ministry of power, Adewumi Omotayo, had told PREMIUM TIMES that the payments were not for officials not on the IPPIS, but for those not on the Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS), an IT tracker of the government’s budget implementation domiciled under the office of the Accountant-General of the Federation.
Mr Fashola admitted, nonetheless, that the payments “have been a source of concern reported in other media by Compliance Authorities.”
He noted that as ministers, they do not manage the accounts and finances of their ministries. “A little investigation would have shown Premium Times that Directors of Finance and Accounts (DFAs) are those who do this job and they are staff of the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation and seconded to the Ministries as part of financial controls,” the statement read.
An official in the office of the Accountant-General of the Federation also told PREMIUM TIMES that Mr Fashola’s claims were false and misleading.
“I can assure you that the minister’s claim is a cover-up that is faulty on all sides,” the official said, asking not to be named because he has no permission to speak on the matter. “Since the Treasury Single Account (TSA) is in place, there is no reason to pay funds into individual accounts. It is the latest trick they are using to steal money and the minister knows this.”
The official advises anti-corruption groups in Nigeria to petition the nation’s anti-graft agencies (the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission) on the matter.
A thorough investigation will reveal the massive fraud involved in the current practice of making payments into individual accounts, he said.
Prior to this story, PREMIUM TIMES’ request for explanations in an FOI sent to the ministry was not answered. Also, the head of the minister’s media team, Hakeem Bello, declined comment, when contacted.
PREMIUM TIMES is standing by its story, Managing Editor Idris Akinbajo said.
“We challenge Mr Fashola to quickly make public evidence of the payments to the ultimate beneficiaries, a list of the ultimate beneficiaries and reasons for the payments,” Mr Akinbajo said. “Those were the questions our letter requested his ministry to answer. We are still waiting for a response.”
Read Fashola’s full statement below
The stupidity of the THOUGHT that a public officer will take such money on a consistent and repeated basis with impunity reveals the mindset of Premium Times about what they can do in such circumstances.
The pen writes what the mind thinks.
That stupidity is magnified by 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.
The stupidity initially informed my decision not to respond to Premium Times in their latest publication headlined under my Name. It is a continuing line of a series of Attack FASHOLA.
Regrettably, what Premium Times has done is to damage its reputation as a news medium for those who seek the truth.
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.
If Premium Times had conducted any investigation it will find and report that payments like this occurred in many other ministries and have been a source of concern reported in other media by Compliance Authorities.
If Premium Times investigated, it would have found and reported that Ministers do not manage accounts and finances of Ministries.
A little investigation would have shown Premium Times that Directors of Finance and Accounts (DFAs) are those who do this job and they are staff of the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation and seconded to the Ministries as part of financial controls
If Premium Times investigated it would have found and reported that government in 2007 initiated a payment platform called Integrated Payment Platform and Information System (IPPIS).
Any well-meaning and right-thinking member of the public will recall that this administration has been engaging all sectors of Government to fully migrate to the IPPIS platform.
What has happened is that not all Government Officials who, from time to time, needed to be paid for approved expenses were registered on the platform.
In order to ensure that government work was not hampered, the DFAs sought and obtained approval of the Accountant General to pay these monies through the Accounts of an Approved few who were on the platform
Those so approved then collect the money and disburse to the beneficiaries who sign Receipts all of which are retired and available for verification as approved by the Accountant General.
The Accountant General has recently issued new guidelines to deal with this process because not all public officials have fully enrolled on IPPIS and the DFAs have the mandate to comply and not FASHOLA.
In all, no money was stolen or is missing. There is No Smoking Gun to criminalize Fashola
If anything has been stolen it is the Trust of the public by Premium Times.
I will not believe anything they write again
This is not investigative Journalism. It is Irresponsible Journalism.
EDITOR’S NOTE: We stand by our story.
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