FG rescues N74bn from police pension- Okonjo-Iweala

2012-03-10
NATION MIRROR Newspaper


Minister of Finance, Mrs. Okonjo Iweala, disclosed yesterday that the Federal Government saved a whoPping N74 billion by plugging loopholes from the police pension funds.

The minister who made this disclosure when she appeared before the Senate Joint Committee on Pensions Administration in Nigeria on Friday said the money was saved from the verification exercise and biometrics at the police pensions office.

Okonjo-Iweala also disclosed that the Police Pensions Office was receiving the sum of N1.5billion monthly for the payment of retired police personnel but following the biometric verification excercise embarked upon by the Pensions Reform Task Team in 2011 government was able to reduce the amount by one third to N500 million monthly, thereby saving the government a monthly N1 billion.

The minister explained that she got involved in the police pensions in September 2011 and had to freeze the accounts after reports reached her from the PRTT Chairman, Abdulrasheed Maina, that there was fraud in the office.

“As Finance Minister, my first instinct was to seek the permission of Mr. President to freeze the accounts, and that is exactly what I did. We had to make sure that every activity regarding the accounts had to be stopped,” she said.

According the minister, KPMG was subsequently invited to audit the police pensions and a number of revelations were made.

She said, “KPMG confirmed what Maina said that N1.5billion to Police Pensions Office monthly when only about N500million was required. The firm also confirmed that N24billion was kept in account meant for the payment of harmonisation arrears.

“KPMG also confirmed that accounts were being opened and monies belonging to the Police Pensions were being moved around. It was discovered that every new management opened new accounts in banks and moved funds around.

“They confirmed that there was a struggle among the Head of Service, the Task Team and the Police Pensions for control over these accounts.”

Okonjo-Iweala confirmed that there were irregularities in the administration of the police pensions before the appointment of the task team and the irregularities continued during the period of the operation of the task team.

She further noted that the total balance of the amount belonging to the pension office was N33billion, but police pensioners were only paid after an authorisation by the Minister of Finance following an approval from Mr. President.

She said there was the practice of using pensions funds for administration purposes, which was a breach of extant financial regulations.

Okonjo-Iweala said KPMG confirmed that the payment of the N119million to pensions was appropriately paid out contrary to the allegations raised by the Task Team.

Earlier, the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Lamorde, appeared to explain his role in the conduct of biometrics in the police pensions office.

His name had appeared on the list of persons travelling to Atlanta Georgia where over N240million was paid out as estacodes.

Larmode denied that he embarked on the trip, saying he neither received any money from the police pensions to travel to the US.

Chairman of the Task Team, Alhaji Maina, who was declared wanted by the committee on Thursday, appeared on Friday to answer questions on some of the allegations put against him.

An obviously rattled Maina had problems explaining how the names of the EFCC Chairman and the former Inspector General Police found their way into the list of 15 persons who travelled abroad for biometric data capture and yet did not make the trips and monies were said to have been paid to them.

He however raised objections as to the authenticity of the documents, and requested for the original copies before he could make his defence.

Maina insisted that he had saved the government N28billion from the restructuring of the police pensions, citing records available at the police pensions.

 

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