Buhari Queries Perm Sec Umar Bello over N48.42bn Contractual Liability
…buys N7bn Property without FCDA Approval
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Science and Technology, Dr Mohammed Umar Bello, has been queried by the Federal Government for allegedly incurring a contractual liability of over N48 billion even when there was budgetary provision.
The Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Dr Folasade Yemi-Esan, signed and issued the query on the directive of President Muhammadu Buhari to the permanent secretary on May 11, 2020.
The embattled Bello was also alleged to have bought a property which can be described as an “uncompleted building” for the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development for N7 billion without the approval of the Federal Capital Development Authority(FCDA).
In the query which was sighted by Economic Confidential, 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.
Bello supervised the alleged infractions when he held sway as the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
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.”
The query with ref. No. HCSF/PSO/AOD/P.030/5B has the title: “Allegations of acts of serious misconduct in your former post of permanent secretary in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development: Preliminary letter/query”.
Relying on the civil service rules, PSR 030401 and 030402, the Head of Service described the allegations against the permanent secretary as acts of serious misconduct which can lead to dismissal.
The embattled permanent secretary was given a 72-hour ultimatum to respond to the allegations if he so desires.
Part of the query reads:“The attention of Mr President has been drawn to the acts of serious misconduct against you in your former post as the Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development on which he has given further directive.
“Specifically, it was alleged that: (a) in spite of the budgetary release of the N98,405,763,678.68 in 2018 (which represents 99.44 of 2018 appropriation), you 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.
“Under your leadership as the accounting officer, the ministry utilised the entire 2019 first quarter release of N7,737,208, 135.18 to pay for the 2018 contracts that were fully funded in 2018 which constitutes virement without authority:
“As accounting officer, you oversaw a transaction for the purchase of a building for the use of the ministry at the sum of N7,044,746,264.06 without the conduct of the mandatory statutory structural and mechanical integrity tests: and prior approval of the FCDA Public Building Department: the building was eventually found to be an uncompleted carcass requiring billions of naira to complete and make safe for occupation;
“Under your watch as the accounting officer, the ministry procured seven deep drilling rigs for borehole at an average cost of N300,000,000. 00 without recourse to the Federal Executive Council;
“(e) and in April, 2019, you gave out the seven rigs procured at over NI .3 billion to some individuals under fraudulent arrangements, without the approval of the minister; and one of the rigs linked to you is yet to be returned despite several written reminders; and
“ You misapplied the intervention funds approved for the purchase of strategic grains and the establishment of the Rural Grazing Area Settlements in violation of extent Financial Regulations; two of such misapplications are:
“ The use of N2.026,838,775.25 to pay contractors and execute programmes from the funds released for emergency procurement of strategic grains which is unrelated to the purpose of the funds.
………………………………………………………………Perm Sec Replies to FG Query: I did no Wrong, The Allegations Against Me Are Baseless, Concocted
…Ask My Predecessor not me
In his response to the query, which was sighted by the Economic Confidential hours after the publication above, the embattled permanent secretary has denied the allegations of financial recklessness made against him.
He described the allegations as “baseless, completely concocted, unfounded, without facts, malicious and calculated to deceive”, urging the Head of Service to “kindly note that we have been invited, interrogated and cleared by the EFCC and ICPC on this particular 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 his reply dated May 14, he said all the financial transactions made while at the ministry of agriculture followed due process
“While denying in totality all the allegations, I hereby forward my representations and response to all the false allegations contained in the query,” the permanent secretary 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 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 paid is totally false. All contractors whose contract was captured in the 2018 budgetary allocation were paid in accordance to 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 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.