By Gabriel Olawale

The Centre for Public Accountability, CPA, on Thursday, urged President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Assembly to probe the refusal of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture to pay retention funds belonging to contractors, who have undergone one project or the other, for the Ministry, between 2018 and 2020.

In a statement by its Executive Director, Olufemi Lawson, alleged that despite the completion of works by many of the contractors, who handled projects of the Ministry, the leadership of the ministry has continued to hold on to the five percent retention, which ordinarily it is expected to pay to the various contractors after six month of the completion of their projects.

Lawson said: “For the avoidance of doubt, the retention in question, is the five percent deduction from the contract sum deducted and kept by agency of government, which is expected to be paid back to the contractor after six months of job completion, with job certified is okay after final verifications by the agency of government.

“The allegations are products of its findings from workers and stakeholders within the ministry, which exposed how the ministry have resorted into using funds, which were not appropriated for by the National Assembly, to purchase properties among other activities.

“This non-payment of retention started in 2018. In 2019, 75 percent of contractors were not paid the main contract sum, talk less of their various retention as funds originally allocated for this purpose were spent on projects unbudgeted for. During the period, the ministry acquired a building worth N7.5bn, a project which was not captured in the 2019 budget and with no record of supplementary appropriation, made by the National Assembly.”

The group further said that it considers the actions of the leadership of the Agriculture Ministry as a deliberate attempt to undermine President Muhammadu Buhari’s rigorous anti-corruption efforts, and his commitment, towards empowering indigenous companies.

CPA vowed to petition the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related offenses Commission, ICPC, and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to unravel the reasons behind the refusal of the Ministry to pay retention funds as and when due, and most importantly, the extra-budgetary spending that the Ministry of Agriculture has become known for.

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