By Adeniyi Adedeji, Ilorin
The investigation panel set up by the Kwara State government to investigate allegations that government diverts or deducts N300 million monthly from local government funds since May 2019 has said there is no evidence to the effect.
Submitting its report to the Kwara State governor, AbdulRahaman AbdulRazaq, in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, the chairman of the panel, retired Justice Mathew Adewara, said its findings as regards the finances of the 16 local government areas of the state regarding the allegation were “to date false and baseless.”.
The panel also said it found no evidence that Governor AbdulRazaq’s administration had borrowed money to pay salary or pensions since it was inaugurated on May 29, 2019.
The governor had on August 11 this year set up and inaugurated the panel to look into the accounts of the local government councils in the state, especially loud allegations that the sun of N300 million was being deducted from the councils’ monthly allocations.
The panel was also asked to investigate the allegations that government was borrowing money from banks to pay salaries of local governnent workers and pensioners.
Adewara said, “We want to state categorically that there is no evidence either oral or documentary to support the allegation of N300 million monthly deduction from the local government funds by the state government.
“The allegation of such deductions is therefore baseless, unfounded and false.” .
The retired jurist said that a total of 35 witnesses testified before his 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 had done as had earlier been submitted by the Directors of Personnel Management, DPMs, who appeared before it.
The Chairman 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.”
He added, “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 which were N4 billion and another N1.6 billion respectively.
Adewara said, “The past administration obtained a loan of N4 billion 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 N317 million. The loan of N4 billion has been fully repaid in September 2019.
“There is another loan of N1.6 billion, 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 “monthly publication of the total wage bill, IGR and expenditure at the state and local government levels, adding, “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, allegation of financial misappropriation emanating from the people against government.”
Commending the governor for his boldness to direct a probe of his own administration — a development he asserted was new to the country, Justice Adewara said, “We commended Your Excellency’s courage to set up the panel to inquire into the finance of the local governments from May 29 to date, which is the same as setting up a panel to investigate your administration.”
Receiving the report, the governor commended the panel for accepting to serve the state in such a delicate capacity.
His words, “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.
“However, it was important to clear public doubts when allegations came that we were diverting some money. That was the essence of setting up the panel to see if there has been any 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.
“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.”
The eight-member panel comprised of 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).