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Senate queries Okonjo-Iweala’s N8.5b SURE-P spending?

                           Senate queries Okonjo-Iweala’s N8.5b SURE-P spending

The Senate ad-hoc Committee on the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P) queried yesterday the disbursement of about N8.5billion by Minister of Finance Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala for SURE-P activities.

Chairman of the Committee, Senator Abdul Ningi, who spoke after Minister of Labour and Productivity Emeka Wogu briefed the committee in Abuja, alleged that the ministry of finance spent N1,435, 190, 999.00 on Graduate Internship Scheme between April 2012 to April 2013.

Director-General of the Budget Office Bright Okogu, was also said to have given a loan of N5billion to the Ministry of Labour and Productivity and allegedly spent N2,482,763,241.00 on vocational training centres.

The Committee also frowned at a situation where the Ministry of Finance was directly managing graduate Internship Scheme and Vocational Training Centres, which are components of the SURE-P between April 2012 to April 2013.

Ningi said: “You took over this scheme in April 2013, that was eight months after the scheme took off and I am surprised that even in your submission, the Ministry of Finance was running the Graduate Internship Scheme.

“The Ministry of Finance was also running the Vocational Training Centres and you said you received N5billion from the Director General of Budget as loan.

“I don’t know anywhere in our law that the Federal Ministry of Finance will loan an amount to a sister agency. It is not a bank, the DG’s office is not a bank neither is it a Central Bank that you could see that they have loaned N5billion in order for you to augment the payment of the Community Service and Youth Empowerment.

“First the Secretariat, write to the Ministry of Finance to account for N1,435, 190, 999.00 as Graduate Internship Scheme they spent between April 2012 to April 2013 and then write to the Director General Budget Office for him to provide the legal authority that require him to loan N5billion including where he got the N5billion from.

“Write also to the DG Budget to provide vocational training centres for which he spent N2,482,763,241.00.

“You see all these amounts I mentioned, we in this part of the divide are under no illusion that the Federal Ministry of Finance do not have the wherewithal to have run this agency for the period that have run it. But that is not the issue.

“The issue is that we want to see documentary evidence on the utilization of these funds so appropriated.”

The committee also lamented that of the N9billion approved for Community Services Women and Youth Employment Project (CSWYE) component of SURE-P in the 2013 budget, only N4billion has been released to the Ministry of Labour and Productivity for the programme.

In his presentation, Wogu noted that 118,912 beneficiaries comprising 75,823 males, 43,089 females and 5,122 physically- challenged persons were currently in the service of the CSWYE.

The beneficiaries, he said, are working in 8,864 service points spread across 11,139 communities in 8,993 wards across the 774 local government areas.

He said the volume of work done by the beneficiaries so far in all the states translates to 160,548,400 man-hours, with environmental sanitation accounting for the highest value of 110,776,900 man hours and traffic control the lowest with a 3,817,300 man hours output.

He lamented that an outstanding 2000 beneficiaries per state and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) are yet to be engaged, to meet the 5000 each target for 2013, due to budgetary challenges.

Wogu said: “Payment of stipends to beneficiaries has not been regular due to the non-approval of N18billion out of the N28 billion budgeted for the project for 2013,

“Delay in these payments cause ripples of protests by the youths across the federation.

“An accumulation of three months (July, August and September) stipends has just been paid from a loan granted the project by the Budget Office of the Federation, while the need for funds for the remaining three months of the year still remains.”

He further explained that N996,041,000 has been spent on running cost to states.

The Minister noted that of the N11,400,190,999.07 released for the CSWYE project including the loan, N7.6billion was spent on stipends, N996,041,000 was spent on running cost while the sum of N1.64billion was expended on project management.

Wogu stated that the major challenge hindering the project is the non-approval of the larger percentage of the 2013 budget.

He said: “An initial budget proposal of N29,505,692,580 was prepared for the project for 2013, this was reviewed down to N27,830,114,550, however, only N9,000,000,000 was approved by the National Assembly, out of which only N4,965,000?000 was released to the project by the budget office.

“There is then the urgent need to source for funds for the project to enable it run t the end of the year and beyond.”

Senate queries Okonjo-Iweala’s N8.5b SURE-P spending? Senate queries Okonjo-Iweala’s N8.5b SURE-P spending? Reviewed by IFEDAYO AKINWALERE on 7:23:00 am Rating: 5