The federal government has debunked the reported disappearance of N24 billion from the Police Pension Fund, saying the money in question was discovered to be an over-estimation of pensions arrears and subsequently returned to government coffers in line with standard practice.
The Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who cleared the air over the alleged missing fund, via a statement issued by her Special Adviser, Mr. Paul Nwabuikwu, said in March 2012, she had told the Senate Joint Committee on Pensions Administration at a public hearing that she ordered the account frozen to prevent fraud based on reports of suspicious transactions.
The ministerâ€™s reaction was sequel to what transpired at the House of Representativesâ€™ Public Accounts Committee (PAC) probe, where the Director General of the Pension Transitional Arrangement Department (PTAD), Mrs. Nellie Mayshak, had told the committee that â€œno documentary evidenceâ€ exists on the whereabouts of N24 billion released from the Service Wide Vote in 2010 for the Police Pension Fund.
Meanwhile, the minister has also declared that contrary to some media reports, her ministry did not reject any requests for information from civil society groups on appropriations and statutory transfers.
According to her, it was public knowledge that the ministry has consistently implemented a policy of transparency and accountability in the management of the economy and public finances as demonstrated in the monthly publication of allocations to the three tiers of government, regular updates on the status of funding of the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P) programmes, payments to oil marketers for verified imports of petroleum products as well as other information.
The minister argued that the ministry has no basis for rejecting any legitimate requests for information on allocations to any government ministry or agency.
â€œIn obedience to the recent court judgment, the ministry, through the Budget Office of the Federation, is collating the details of appropriations and statutory transfers to the National Assembly, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), National Judicial Council (NJC), the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Universal Basic Education (UBEC) and National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) for publication. These agencies are all on first-line charge to the Federation Account and therefore the ministry must work with them to obtain the necessary information.
â€œIt is public knowledge that as a result of the implementation of IPPIS (Integrated Personnel and Payroll Management System), about 45,000 names of ghost workers have been taken off the payroll and about N118 billion saved. The Federal Ministry of Finance has taken the additional step of referring the issue to the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) for further investigation so that any identified culprits can face the full wrath of the law,â€ she said.
On the allegation that the Budget Office of the Federation and other agencies had the highest proportion of ghost workers in the country, she said it was imperative to provide some clarifications.
â€œThis is an obvious misrepresentation of facts. The Budget Office was one of the pioneer agencies on the IPPIS platform since 2006 and through biometrics and other processes, ghost workers have been eliminated from its payroll for about seven years now. The failure to give a time frame to this allegation was obviously done in bad faith to give a negative impression.
â€œThe Federal Ministry of Finance will, in line with its statutory mandate and international best practice, continue to manage the finances of the country transparently and accountably,â€ the minister said.