The Federal Government has stopped further disbursement of cash to beneficiaries under the YouWin programme following alleged massive fraud uncovered in its management.
The Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, said on Friday that the decision to stop further disbursement of funds was to allow government conclude its investigations to unravel alleged massive irregularities in the selection of the winners.
The Punch Newspaper had on Tuesday reported massive fraud uncovered in programme.
Mrs. Adeosun said another petition was received from an anonymous whistle-blower, which provided documentary evidence of irregularities in 10 cases out of the YouWin3 batch of beneficiaries to which about N611.8 million was disbursed.
The YouWin programme initiated by the Goodluck Jonathan administration, the minister said, had to be continued in view of some legally binding commitments of grants to 1,500 entrepreneurs selected in the first two batches of the programme designed to help young graduates gain employment.
The minister said it was the determination to honour the subsisting commitments with the beneficiaries that informed the present administration’s decision to organise the YouWin 3 batch of awardees.
However, Mrs. Adeosun said, following an internal investigation into the allegations, government confirmed some startling discoveries, including that one of the awardees was the child of a former director in the ministry. She did not disclose the identity of the former director.
She said the investigation also uncovered a number of cases where married couples each benefitted separately from the cash disbursements, raising concerns about the integrity of the original selection process since 2014 when it began.
“The position of the Ministry is that investigations are ongoing under the Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit (PICA) that will review each suspected case to determine whether any irregularity occurred. In the interim, disbursements of this batch have been suspended,” the minister said.
Since its inception, the YouWin programme, one of the multiple intervention programmes by the government to create jobs for the teeming population of unemployed youth, has midwifed about 3,900 enterprises within four years.
To ensure its sustainability, the Buhari administration, which acknowledged the success of the original programme, undertook a review.
The exercise found, among other limitations, that awardees were overly focused on the grant aspect of the programme, with a few able to secure other forms of funding to grow their businesses despite each receiving up to N10 million in grants.
Consequently, the ministry redesigned the programme and relaunched it as YouWinConnect to focus more on continuous enterprise education, to help build the capacity of young entrepreneurs across a range of disciplines.
The YouWinConnect was expected to develop entrepreneurs who can attract funding from wide range of sources currently available with the funding taking the form of a Venture Fund which will take equity stakes in new and growing businesses.