February 14, 2017

Senate grills CCB Chairman over abandoned N8bn office project

Senate grills CCB Chairman over abandoned N8bn office project

Sam Saba Board Chiar Code of Conduct Bureau

By Henry Umoru

ABUJA- THE Senate ,yesterday, took a swipe at the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB, Mr. Sam Saba  for  abandoning its ongoing office project valued at N8 billion.

Sam Saba Board Chiar Code of Conduct Bureau

It also lampooned the CCB for its failure to give detailed and realistic presentation of expenditures undertaken during the course of the 2016 budget year, describing it as “voodoo accounting.”

The upper chambers equally requested the CCB to furnish it with details of how it expended N22 million released for security services; N13 million for honorarium and sitting allowance; N11.2 million for local training; and N24.6 million for welfare package, among others.

The Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, led by Senator Samuel Anyanwu (PDP, Imo East), raised these posers, yesterday, when the CCB Chairman, Mr. Sam Saba, appeared before it to defend the 2017 budget.

In his remarks, chairman of the committee, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, described the budget performance of the bureau as unsatisfactory, asking  it to provide details into some of its expenditures for which funds were appropriated and released last year.

Senator Anyanwu, who queried the bureau’s spending, said it was unrealistic for the CCB to spend a whopping N5 million on purchase of recharge cards.

He said: “There are aspects of the item in your 2016 budget which I would want details for, such as who were those who benefited from money appropriated for welfare, honorarium and all that.

‘’I think we need these details to be able to know how you spent what was released to you for last year.”

According to him, the committee needs the details to reach a decision as to whether “it is necessary to remove them because we want to stop the waste of public funds.”

Members of the committee who took turns to express their displeasure during the budget defence, described as wasteful the agency’s demand for N4.4 billion for the purchase of a new office building, despite spending N1.4 billion on  an abandoned project.

A member of the committee, Senator Mao Ohuabunwa, (PDP, Abia North), who kicked against the purchase of a new office, called for transparency in the spending of government funds by all Ministries, Departments and Agencies of Government, MDAs.

He said:  “I can’t seem to come to terms with your decision to spend N1.4 billion and dump that to purchase another building for over N4 billion. I really cannot fathom the rationality behind that decision.

“Second, this budget, as far as capital is concerned, is still on because the likelihood of money being released is still there, and when that happens, we would have gone past this. As per overheads, we need details of your expenditure.”

Also speaking, Senator Matthew Urhoghide (PDP, Edo South), explained that the committee’s request was to ensure “that no one is left in doubt as to how the sum of monies released to CCB was utilized.’’

In his remarks,   Senator Tayo Alasoadura, APC, Ondo Central, described the budgetary practice of the bureau as “voodoo accounting”, and  called on board members present at the meeting to explore alternative means of resolving the challenge of securing an office building without recourse to budgetary appropriation.

Responding, Chairman of the Code of Conduct Bureau, Mr. Sam Saba, while explaining the circumstances leading to the bureau’s decision to abandon the project, blamed it on the interference of the Federal Capital Development Agency, FCDA.

According to him, the Bureau had initially proposed N3.5 billion for an 8-floor building for the office project, but the plan was cancelled by the FCDA, redesigned and revalued at N10 billion.

He added that the administration of the FCT explained that its decision for revaluation and redesign was to meet the requirement for the procurement of land at the location which prescribed nothing less than an 18-floor building.

Saba, who expressed the readiness of the bureau to seek the support of the National Assembly in getting the approval of the federal government for the allocation of a building to accommodate the agency, said the CCB proposed N2, 732, 437,287 billion; out of which N1,601,966,323 was for personnel; N435,616,600 for overhead, while  N694,854,364 was for capital expenditure.