By Mosunmola Ayobami, Kwara
Allegations that the Kwara State Government diverted or deducted N300million monthly from local government funds since May 2019 to date are false and baseless, the panel of inquiry on the finance of the 16 local government areas has said.
The panel also said it found no evidence that the AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq administration has borrowed to pay salary or pension since it was inaugurated on May 29, 2019.
“We want to state categorically that there is no evidence either oral or documentary to support the allegation of N300m monthly deduction from the local government funds by the state government.
“The allegation of such deductions is therefore baseless, unfounded and false,” its chairman, retired Justice Mathew Adewara said recently when the panel submitted its report to the Governor.
AbdulRazaq had on August 11 inaugurated the panel to investigate the allegations of diversion of local government funds or borrowings from the bank to pay salaries of local government workers.
Justice Adewara said a total of 35 witnesses testified before the panel while several documents were produced and tendered by them. He said the panel also visited some of the local governments to see what projects they have done as had earlier been submitted by the director of personnel management (DPMs) who appeared before them.
The report of the panel meanwhile has found that the state government, “does not deduct money from the SUBEB account while salaries of teaching and non-teaching staff are paid as and when due from May 29 to date.”
Adewara said the panel only received a memorandum from the Elite Network for Sustainable Development (ENETSUD), adding however that the questions the civic group raised in its memo were, “all based on incomplete information sourced from the internet and social media.
“Meanwhile, all the grey areas have been thoroughly thrashed out to the satisfaction of Mr Suleiman Oladimeji (of ENETSUD), having been confronted with the documents earlier submitted to the panel by the Kwara State Ministry of Finance.”
The report meanwhile confirmed that the last administration took two separate loans in the name of the local governments: N4bn and another N1.6billion.
“The past administration obtained a loan of N4bn from a commercial bank for payment of two months arrears of salaries of local government staff. It was this loan that the Local governments were repaying at monthly instalments of N317million. The loan of N4billion has been fully repaid in September 2019.
“There is another loan of N1.6billion also obtained by the past administration while the repayment of the loan is ongoing and will terminate in August 2022. It means therefore that the present administration inherited the obligation to repay the loan.”
The committee meanwhile urged the government to ensure, “the monthly publication of the total wage bill, IGR and expenditure at the state and Local government levels. This, we are sure, would guarantee accountability and transparency which will enrich the integrity of the government in the minds of the people; thereby preventing future reoccurrence of doubt, the allegation of financial misappropriation emanating from the people against the government.”
Justice Adewara commended the Governor for his boldness to direct a probe of his own administration — a development he asserted was new to the country.
“We commended Your Excellency’s courage to set up the panel to inquire into the finance of the local government from May 29 to date, which is the same as setting up a panel to investigate your administration,” he said.
The Governor, on his part, commended the panel for accepting to serve the state in such delicate capacity.
“We believe that the document you’re submitting will enrich us. I never authorised the deduction or diversion of any money and so nothing could have been so diverted,” he said.
“However, it was important to clear public doubt when allegations came that we were diverting some money. That was the essence of setting up the panel to see if there has been an anomaly as alleged. Your findings and recommendations will help us to strengthen the civil service both at state and local government levels, especially how funds are spent and managed.
“We campaigned on not interfering with local government finances and since we came in we have not done so. If anybody has done so it was without my knowledge. The local governments do not need my approval to spend any money. The main interface between the state and local governments is when the commissioner of finance and planning goes to Abuja for FAAC meetings, comes back and meets with the local governments that this is what we got for you from Abuja. That’s where it ends.
“Truly, we appreciate what you have done. We will go through your recommendations properly and implement them. Just as we set up this panel, the state house of assembly set up their own and I also invited the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to come in and investigate the issues. That is ongoing. I thank you for your time.”
The eight-member panel comprised people drawn from various walks of life, including retired Justice Adewara (chairman); Mrs Halimah Bello (DSS); Mrs Titilayo Adedeji (CSOs); Barrister Aisha Bello Mohammed (NBA); DSP Adekunle Iwalaiye (police); Mohammed Baba Ibrahim (ICAN); Alhaja Asmau Apalando (NLC); and Barrister S.K Grillo (Secretary).