Okonjo- Iweala says Finance Ministry not in-charge of SURE -P funds

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

The Nigerian Finance Minister said the finances of SURE-P were not handled by her office.

The Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has said that her office is not in-charge of the finances of the Subsidy Re-investment Programme, SURE-P.

Ms. Okonjo-Iweala made the statement in Abuja on Tuesday at an investigative hearing on the operation and management of SURE-P, organised by the House of Representatives Special Joint committee on SURE-P.

She said that all the questions on how the funds were spent should be directed at the Chairman of the programme, Christopher Kolade.

The minister said, “The director-general, who is the accounting officer of the programme, does not report to me.

“Even the accounting officer of SURE-P (DG Budget Office) does not report to me.”

She defended the decision of the Federal Government to set up the management team for the fund rather than allowing the MDAs to manage it.

“It was the desire of Nigerians to see the funds were managed separately.

“This led to the issue of creating a committee to manage the funds in a manner that Nigerians could see that the monies were transparently utilised,” she said.

The Director- General of Budget Office, Bright Okogu, attempted to refute allegation that the SURE-P programme s a duplication of the work of MDAs.

Mr. Okogu said out of the N180 billion for the programme, N1 billion was dedicated to the running of the office out of which N536.35 million had already been spent, leaving a balance of N463 million.

He said all the monies given to the MDAs under the SURE-P programme should be looked at as additional budgetary provision for them.

“It is this additional budgetary principle that we are using to drive the SURE-P Programme and it’s not duplication,” Mr. Okogwu said.

He said claims are made through the Board of SURE-P by Programme Implementation Units (PIUs) and the Board verifies before payment.

On his part, Mr. Kolade said that N180 billion was budgeted for the programme in 2012 out of which N105 billion was paid to contractors for various jobs.

He said that one of the challenges faced by the programme was how to convince Nigerians that the programme would be beneficial to them.

Mr. Kolade said the SURE-P committee was the result of Federal Government policy of ensuring that savings from partial withdrawal of subsidy results in distinct development projects.

“We are just carrying out the mandate; SURE-P does not award contracts,” he said.

He said money allocated to the programme is expended on health, education and other related projects.

“We have increased the supply of human resources for health and created jobs by recruiting 3,960 health care workers.

“We have selected 625 primary and secondary health care facilities across the 36 states of the country and FCT,” he said.

Dakuku Peterside, the Chairman, House committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream), said that since the introduction of the programme it had been received with mixed feelings.

He said that if the amount set aside for the programme was effectively and efficiently managed, it would make a difference in the lives of Nigerians.

The House of Representatives on November 15, 2012, mandated a Joint Committee to investigate the mandate and operations of SURE-P.

(NAN)


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