The Nigerian government has ordered a comprehensive investigation into a report by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) that revealed N2.67bn (about $6.5m) school feeding funds meant for 104 Unity Colleges, ended up in private accounts during the COVID-19 lockdown.
The country’s Ministry of Education and the ICPC will collaborate to investigate the school feeding fraud, with the government saying the probe aims to establish the veracity of the claims to ensure that there was no diversion of public funds or misappropriation of the same.
Ben Bem Goong, the Director – Press, and Public Relations – in the Federal Ministry of Education, made the announcement in a statement on Tuesday.
“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,’ he said.
“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,” Goong said.