15th December, 2015
The Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Millennium Development Goals, OSSAP-MDGs has denied allegations of diversion of funds, embezzlement and misappropriation of funds meant for the payment of debts as alleged by some contractors reportedly being owed the office.
The contractors, through their counsel, Victor Giwa had raised the allegations in an open letter written to the President. The position was further re-echoed during a protest in Abuja on Tuesday.
In a statement issued by the office and signed by the media consultant to OSSAP-MDGs, Desmond Utomwen, the management claimed that “no money has been diverted or tampered with as alleged. It noted that the allegation by the contractors and their backers that the funds budgeted for settlement of past contractual commitments is being diverted for the execution of fresh contracts is untrue and portrays their ignorance as to the workings of Government financial procedures.
The statement further noted that the demand by the contractors that money should be vired from other budgetary subheads to settle their old obligations is not within the competence of the office as this requires the authorization from the National Assembly.
“The Appropriation Act is a law of the country, which is passed by the National Assembly and signed by Mr President. Any variation or virement of funds from one sub-head to another is not within our competence. The Office is therefore obliged to implement the provisions of the 2015 Budget especially in the implementation of pro-poor projects and programmes in line with the Change Agenda of the present Administration and the mandate of the Office.”
It stated further that “It is common knowledge that under the Treasury Single Account, TSA currently being operated in the country, all public funds are domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria and can only be accessed through the Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS) platform, which is managed by the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation.
“In all financial transactions we are guided by the provisions of the Public Service Rule (PSR), the Financial Regulation (FR) and the Public Procurement Act, 2007 amongst other Extant Rules and Regulations.”
While expressing the commitment of the office to offset the outstanding commitments, the management stated that “the Office has not received cash-backing for the Second Quarter release as alleged. Only the First Quarter has been released and over N2 billion out of that has been used to settle past contractual commitments. It maintained that “earlier this year, precisely in June, the sum of N5 billion was also utilized 100% to settle past contractual commitments; and it is further proposed that when the Second Quarter cash backing is received, a similar commitment of over N2billion is to be used to settle the liabilities of contractors, amongst others.
According to the statement, while the efforts of the office to offset the debts have hitherto received the commendation from the contractors, as is evident in their letter to the office dated 26th August, 2015 the current action by a section of the contractors is believed to be informed by mischief and some sinister ulterior motives other than the recovery of their debt obligations.
“It is worthy of note that in pursuit of their agitations, the said Contractors have taken their cases to the Acting Head of Civil Service of the Federation, the Honourable Minister of Budget and National Planning, Honourable Minister of Finance, the Attorney General of the Federation and the Accountant General of the Federation. We are delighted to note that all of these eminent government functionaries are currently looking into their agitations with a view to addressing same.”
“While the issue of debts to contractors is not peculiar to OSSAP-MDGs, it is appropriate to advise the Association to conduct themselves in a most civil and peaceful manner in expressing their grievances. Resorting to wild allegations, blackmail, name-calling, character assassination, intimidations, public incitement, violent demonstrations and malicious spreading of falsehood suggest some sinister motives which are not clear to us.
“On our part, our doors remain open as always to constructive engagements, dialogue and peaceful resolutions of all issues pertaining to past commitments. In this regard, we have held several consultative meetings with the executives of the Association and we still remain ever ready to engage them in future,” MDGs office concluded.