FG pays N24bn to Special Public Works scheme beneficiaries*plans to implement it annually

By Chesa Chesa

The Federal Government says it has paid out N24,817,800,000 to 413,530  beneficiaries of the Special Public Works (SPW) programme meant to temporarily employ indigent and 774,000 unemployed youth in the 774 local governments in the country.

Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, who made this disclosure on Thursday at a press briefing organized by the Presidential Media Team at the Villa, said it represented 60 percent success of the programme so far.

The beneficiaries were paid N20,000 per month for the three-month period.

He, therefore, debunked the allegation that the program had failed following complaints that several beneficiaries were not paid their dues several months after their engagements.

He explained that there had been delays in payments owing to verification and the some payments bouncing back because of incomplete banking transactions of some beneficiaries, among other challenges.

The Minister said that the program may be extended by one month this year to allow clearance of backlog of allowances owed the beneficiaries.

According to him, the initial target of employment of 1,000 unemployed youth per local government, 774 in all, could not be achieved because of the discovery of fraud during the registration process.

Keyemo disclosed that it was discovered that multiple names were registered against same Bank Verification Number (BVN) in order to defraud the government.

He said the government’s determination to make the disbursement error-free by ensuring that no one gets paid multiple times delayed the payment to the beneficiaries.

He said: “Now, when the account numbers came back to us, and wanted to pass it on to Central Bank, we did our own checks. And then we discovered that many persons wanted to defraud the federal government.

“We checked all the names before we authorised payments and payments would have started in January. We discovered that you had a situation where five different names on the list of local government have one BVN account appearing in those five different names.”

The Minister said he insisted on meticulous screening of the register to guide against fraud saying “I was once a prosecutor in the EFCC for 15 years. I don’t want to fall into the same era for which I was prosecuting people. So, we want it to be fraud free, the integrity of the process is more important to us.”

The SPW initiative began in April last year as part of the fiscal stimulus measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to engage unemployed persons nationwide for a period of three months.

Keyamo disclosed that President Muhammadu Buhari has now approved that the programme will now be implemented annually.

“The President has, as part of the larger poverty reduction strategy of the federal government, approved the program for implementation annually.

“This is one of the various programmes that government will be implementing every year. So, people can always wait, those who cannot benefit now, will come into these net next time around”, he said.

Asked why the government placed an embargo on recruitment and replacement of civil servants, Keyamo said the Buhari administration was only prioritizing job creation by skilling-up the masses by empowering them through Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).

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