Lost and found: N273.9 billion of pension funds discovered

by Doyin Jaiyesinmi

The Senate Committee on Investigation of Pension Administration can confidently say they are working.

The Senate committee uncovered idle cash worth N273.9 billion in seven major pension offices. The affected offices include the military, parastatals, the police and universities. Following the discovery of this gold mine, the committee will submit a 108-page report with recommendations to the Senate later today.

In the report, the committee recommended that Abdul Rasheed Maina, chairman of the Pension Task Team along with John Yusuf and B.G. Kaigama “should be arrested and prosecuted by the Nigeria Police Force for the crimes of fraud, embezzlement, misappropriation, misapplication, contract splitting, award of contracts to non-existing companies, award of contracts without appropriations and outright stealing of pension funds. And the stolen funds should be recovered from them.” The recommendations for arrests also includes all members of the Pension Task Team involved in the fraud.

The funds in question were said to have been used for verification exercises and were ten times more than the amount originally allocated to them. The committee revealed that the “frequent verification exercises, which are often done without convenient arrangement, have put the pensioners into untold sufferings and death” and the “amount spent on the verification exercise is sufficient for payment of more than half of one year’s pension.”

The committee rebuked the EFCC for being selective in arresting and prosecuting official who allegedly looted pensioner’s money. It also observed that the EFCC had discontinued its pension fraud investigations at a time when there were weighty evidence linking the chairman and members of the task team to the fraud.

To aid transparency and quick recovery of the funds, the committee has asked the government to compel the Pension Task Force to submit all its financial records and transactions for auditing.

The audit is to be carried out by the accountant-general of the federation (AGF) who will have unlimited access to the financial records of the Pension Task Team. According to the committee, “there are indicators of massive fraud and embezzlement of pension funds in the years 2000 to 2007 which require comprehensive audit and forensic investigation. This is because there were no credible actions for the sensitisation and validation of pension payroll during these years”. With the thorough investigation, the committee expects that the AGF will clear up all the outstanding pension fund balances and use the recovered funds to settle all outstanding pension entitlement.

Commercial banks were not left out of the committee’s investigations. They were indicted in the report for collaborating in the looting of pension funds. The committee believed that “the banks were handy collaborators in the unauthorized and illegal opening of government accounts, change of signatories, transfer of funds, deposit of government funds, and many other unethical financial transactions.”

It is yet to be seen whether all the recommendations made by the committee will be adopted by the Senate.

Source: The Nation

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