Former governor of Kwara State, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed, has refuted claims that his administration mismanaged Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) counterpart funds.
In a statement issued by his spokesman, Dr Muyideen Akorede, in reaction to allegations by the state government that the former administration mismanaged the funds, Alhaji Ahmed absolved his administration of any wrongdoing regarding the management of UBEC funds.
He, however, maintained that the federal agency essentially cancelled a N2,090,101,208 grant to the state when the government borrowed from SUBEB its fifty-per cent counterpart fund of N1,045,050,604, for the payment of salaries at the height of the 2015 economic recession which prevented most states in Nigeria from meeting salary obligations to workers.
While stressing that the government’s temporary borrowing of the counterpart fund for salaries was based on its concern for workers’ welfare and a commitment to repay from then expected refunds from the federal government, the statement added that the administration had part-refunded the money but was prevented from paying the balance of N450m from funds received by the administration in the last days of its tenure due to its accounts being frozen.
The statement emphasised that the school projects implemented with the partly-refunded grant are available for verification at the appropriate government agency but denied knowledge of UBEC blacklisting the state government during the former administration’s tenure.
The full statement reads:
1. The administration of Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed categorically refutes claims that it mismanaged or diverted UBEC counterpart-funded grants to the Kwara State government during its tenure.
2. For clarity, UBEC grants are recurring annual federal educational grants to state governments accessed after payment of specified matching counterpart funds.
3. Owing to the huge amounts normally required as counterpart fund, the government usually relied on extraordinary financial inflows such as federal government refunds or bank loans to access the matching grant from UBEC.
4. This is because using monthly federal allocation for such payments will have severely hampered the government’s capacity to meet salary and other commitments.
5. We must also emphasise that as UBEC matching grants were treated as separate yearly transactions, the government often secured loans for counterpart funding the grants from different financial institutions annually, hence the existence of multiple bank accounts for this purpose.
6. At the height of the economic recession of 2015, the Kwara State Government, in a bid to access the 2013 tranche of UBEC grant, secured a N1,045,050,604 loan from a bank as counterpart fund for an N2b matching grant in favour of SUBEB.
7. However, faced with a sustained drop in federal allocation, the state government borrowed its share of N1,045,040,604 from SUBEB for salary payment, with a commitment to refund once an expected financial inflow was received.
8. Having SUBEB then used the balance N1,045,050,604, to pay for school rehabilitation projects. Details of projects are available for verification at SUBEB.
9. When it became aware of the state government’s utilisation of its counterpart fund for salary payment, UBEC essentially cancelled the transaction and insisted on repayment of its N1,045,050,604 by the state government despite the fact that the money had been used for intended projects.
10. Notwithstanding, state government and UBEC agreed that the refund is made in installments. The sum of N595,050,604 was subsequently refunded, leaving a balance of N450m with the administration committing to clear the balance on or before the end of its tenure.
11. Specifically, former administration planned to pay the outstanding N450m from a long-expected Road Project Refund from the Federal Government or from May 2019 Allocation but was prevented from accessing the said funds in circumstances that remain unclear.
12. This anomaly of disallowing a sitting government from executing duly appropriated and approved expenditure is what prevented the former administration from repaying the balance of N450m to UBEC and executing other financial instruments that were not honoured by its banks for yet unexplained reasons.
13. Finally, we are unaware of any correspondence from UBEC blacklisting Kwara State or any of its agencies while the administration was in office. The referenced UBEC letter which is currently in circulation made no such inference.