Reps raise concerns over pre-budgetary spending by UBEC

Universal Basic Education Commission

The committee said that the commission action also violated the Fiscal Responsibility Act for accessing and spending funds before the passage of the 2016 Budget.

Chairman of the committee, Rep. Zakari Mohammed (APC-Kwara), raised the concerns during a meeting with leadership of the commission to appraise the 2016 budget performance in line with its oversight responsibilities.

The commission’s Director of Finance, Mr Mohammed Sambo, had in response to some questions told the lawmakers that UBEC started accessing funds for recurrent and other expenditures since March, 2016, which became operation in May.

“We get our funding based on what was appropriated. If the appropriation is N77 billion, we get N6 billion every month and in the first quarter, we would have gotten N18 billion,’’ he said.

Sambo admitted that the commission began expenditure of the funds before the passage of the budget, saying that they ensured that the expenditure was within approved limit.

Executive Secretary of the commission, Mr Habib Bobboi, said that he came to UBEC on Aug. 4, 2016 and met a total of N300million in-balance according to the handover note.

“There are a lot of contracts that were given under the matching grant with outstanding liabilities of over N800million,” he said.

On the Treasury Single Account (TSA) policy, Bobboi said that mopping up of funds did not necessarily hinder the commission in terms of ongoing projects.

He explained that funds accessed were expected to be fully utilised without being returned to the coffers.

He added that the inability of some states to utilise grants from the commission led to the incidence of un-accessed funds still lying untouched with UBEC.

The executive scribe said that accumulation of un-accessed funds started from 2005 and had remained so.

“Some states are up and others are behind, without coming to access the funds because they lack the willingness to provide the counterpart funding and that is why the funds accumulated.

“There’s zero performance by states on basic education due to lack of access to the funds. Abia state has not accessed its matching grant for four years,” he said.

He therefore called for reduction of the matching grant to enable states meet up in terms of access due to the burden of counterpart contribution.

According to Bobboi, there are states in Nigeria that don’t pay serious attention to the issue of education beginning with basic education.

“The last time we met with States Universal Basic Education Commissions (SUBECs) in Jos, I raised the issue of states needing to access funds lying at UBEC which they need to finance basic education.

“And, I specifically made mention of Abia which has at least N4 billion with UBEC but has not come to access it.

“If not for the matching grant, at least, it can be used to enhance enrolment of the boy-child in schools which is one basic area of concern in the South-East.

“So, while some states are doing very well in terms of availability of access to basic education, others don’t care at all,” he added.

Also, Rep. Kehinde Agboola (PDP-Ekiti), who queried why other states were not captured in the coverage area of UBEC, said that Ekiti state was not included.

Responding to that, Sambo said, “Normally, the practise is to tell the states to send in their action plan upon which they can access the matching grant.

“On the issue of Ekiti, they still have that of 2014 still un-accessed, let alone 2016, reason being that previous grants accessed were not up to 50 per cent utilised, which is why Ekiti was not included in 2016 plan.”

He also disclosed that the state had a peculiar problem of liability to financial institution which was triggered following a change of leadership in the state.