By Nwafor Sunday
Following the discovering of N2.67 billion payment made to some federal colleges for school feeding during the lockdown which was discovered by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, to have been diverted to private accounts, Federal government, Tuesday ordered a full-scale investigation to unravel the mystery behind the diversion.
On September 29, Chairman of ICPC, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye said the commission had discovered payments to some federal colleges for school feeding in the sum of N2.67 billion during lockdown when the children are not in school, and some of the money ended up in personal accounts.
Reacting to this after about seven days the story broke, Director Press and Public Relations in the Federal Ministry of Education, Ben Bem Goong, said via a statement: “Following the report of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, that the sum of N2.67 billion released to the 104 Unity Colleges during the COVID – 19 lockdown for meal subsidies found its way into individual accounts, the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, has ordered a full-scale investigation into the matter.
“In response to queries issued by the Federal Ministry of Education, the Principals explained that payments on meal subsidies to Unity Colleges on the Government Integrated Financial Management Information System, platform is designed to accommodate individual officers of those colleges who are officially recognized to receive such payments and disburse same to food vendors.
“This followed difficulties encountered by farmers, local food vendors, and market women who do not have Tax Identification Numbers, PENCOM, and other requirements to access the payment platform.
“The principals also explained that payments made during the lockdown period had to do with debts owed food vendors even before COVID – 19, some of which are still pending, adding that these debts arose from irregular and inadequate budgetary allocations and releases over the years.
“The investigation is to establish the veracity of the claims to ensure that there is no diversion of public funds or misappropriation of same.
“To this end, the Ministry in line with the Minister’s directive is to collaborate effectively with officials of the ICPC to unearth the facts as well as find a lasting solution to the payment system for meal subsidies that will ensure accountability and transparency.”