N48bn Scam: Perm Sec replies FG, clears self

*I am innocent, allegations baseless, he says

*Current Perm Sec bored approved funds

By Chuks Oyema-Aziken and Ralph Izopu

The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Science and Technology, Dr Mohammed Umar Bello, who was queried by the Federal Government for allegedly incurring a contractual liability of over N48 billion while serving at the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, has responded denying any wrong doing.

The Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Dr Folasade Yemi-Esan, signed and issued a query to the Permanent Secretary on the directive of President Muhammadu Buhari on May 11.

Bello was also alleged to have pirchased an uncompleted property for the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development for N7 billion without properly liaising with the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA).

It was alleged that: in spite of the budgetary release of the N98,405,763,678.68 in 2018 (which represents 99.44 of 2018 appropriation), Bello did not take necessary action to pay the eligible contractors which led to the ministry having an outstanding contractual liability in the sum of N48.429,543,895.722.

He was also accused of giving out seven deep drilling rigs for borehole procured at N1.3 billion to some unnamed individuals under “fraudulent arrangements.”

But responding to the query, the Permanent Secretary denied the all allegations as “baseless, completely concocted, unfounded, without facts, malicious and calculated to deceive”, urging the Head of Service”.

He insisted that he had been invited, interrogated and cleared by the EFCC and ICPC on the matter “after glaring facts were presented to them.”.

Bello said Alhaji Sabo Nanono, Minister of Agriculture, and the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved the purchase of the building.

In the response dated May 14, he insisted that all the financial transactions made while he was at the Ministry of Agriculture followed due process

He said: “I am constrained to give details of the transactions I approved to set the record straight and clear my name. I will like state the following that all transactions at the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development were approved through Administrative process and principles as traditioned in the conduct of government business.

“That FMARD run a rolling budget year in year out as most projects are been (sic) captured as ongoing; that all contracts/procurement and payments at the FMARD followed due process.

“There are procedures for contracts/procurement and payments handled by various departments in all government agencies, FMARD inclusive.

“That my tenure as Permanent Secretary at FMARD commenced from 10th January, 2019 to 18th December, 2019 and hence cannot be held responsible or liable for actions prior to 10th January, 2019.

“I state that contractors were duly paid. The allegation of contractors not been (sic) paid is totally false. All contractors whose contract was (sic) captured in the 2018 budgetary allocation were paid in accordance to (sic) budgetary releases.

“However, contractors whose contracts are ongoing were rolled over as ongoing. Rollover capital projects are not new in contract management.

“I will state that due process was followed to the latter in the purchase of the said building. After submission of recommendation to the Hon. Minister of Agriculture; He approved that Council Memo be made to that effect.

“We then sent the Memo to the Secretary to Government of the Federation who then scheduled it for Federal Executive Council Approval. Consequently, the Federal Executive Council approved the purchase of the building.

“It is worthy of note at this point that it is the current Permanent Secretary FMARD who is actually guilty of virement as since after the approval of the above contracts (sic) has refused to sign and release letters of award of contract to the respective contractors but instead diverted and vire the funds to other projects in his locality that were never part of the appropriation, neither advertised nor bided for”.

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