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House Queries N11.5B Ecological Fund Contracts

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ABUJA, December 4, (THEWILL) - The House of Representatives has queried the award of more than N11.5 billion in contracts in the South East part of the country by the Ecological Fund Office (EFO) in 2010.

The Hon. Uche Ekwunife led House committee on environment raised the dust in Abuja at the weekend when it met with the new permanent secretary of the Ecological Fund Office, Dr. MacJohn Nwaobiala at the National Assembly.

The committee consequently gave the Ecological Fund Office two weeks ultimatum to submit a detailed list of all ongoing contracts, their locations, amounts, the names of the contractors as well as the contractual agreements.

The EFO gave out the contracts as the federal government’s emergency intervention to address ecological challenges of gully erosion and flood in the South-East in 2010 when the former permanent secretary, Mrs. Ibukun Odusote was in charge.

The Ecological Fund is an emergency intervention fund that is made up of 3 per cent of total revenue accruals to the federal government. The fund which totals about N4 billion monthly is shared between the Federal, states and local governments at a ratio of 1.46, 0.72 and 0.60 percent respectively.

During the meeting, the committee noted that it had discovered that the usage of the funds is largely unmonitored particularly in the states and local governments.

The committee observed that there is need to prevent a situation whereby projects appropriated for by executing agencies are also listed for funding under the ecological fund, thereby resulting in the duplication of appropriation for projects.

The committee chairman, Uche Ekwunife while addressing the meeting said there is need to put in place structures to monitor the disbursement of the funds to ensure it is used for what it was meant for. According to her, the Minister for Environment and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation should exercise absolute powers over the application and utilisation of ecological fund.

“There’s need for more control in the utilisation of the Ecological Fund, there should be clear cut control and responsibility. There’s absolute need to amend the Act setting up the Ecological Funds Office to ensure that it becomes a Commission and not an inter-ministerial agency,” the lawmaker stated.

Ekwunife however commended the Minister for Environment, Hadiza Mailafa for the initiatives she has brought to bear on the ministry since she assumed office.

All ongoing projects numbering about 50 across the country tied to the disaster intervention funds are to be visited by the House Committee.

The permanent secretary of the Ecological Fund Office, Dr. MacJohn Nwaobiala, in his response agreed with the committee that the Act setting up the ecological fund needs to be amended to make the states and local governments more accountable for the manner in which they expend the funds.

He said part of the problems that has hindered the proper functioning of the intervention organisation is the long delay of projects approval by the Bureau of Public Pubic Procurement which sometimes is upwards to six months.

He suggested a stakeholder’s forum with the Minister of Environment and the Bureau of Public Procurement in attendance as a way forward to tackling some of the challenges facing the Ecological Funds office.