By; BALA B. BITRUS, Minna
Almost four years down the line, Niger State Government has not been able to pay it’s counterpart funds to draw from the federal government’s co-funded basket for Universal Basic Education.
Niger and Ondo states trail behind others to close the rear in the list of defaulters in paying for their counterparts funds.
Niger state is yet to access as much as over 50% of the counterparts funds left in the vaults of the UBE for over three years.
The funds are laying dormant waiting for authorities in the state to draw them down from the basket for the Universal Basic Education joint funding scheme.
Since 2013 when the state fully paid up it’s counterpart funds and accessed the balance paid up by the federal government, it has since then foot-dragged and near halfheartedly attempted to avail itself of the window of the existing basket for the funding of the Universal Basic Education for it’s primary school system.
In 2013, the last time the state government accessed the basket, only 50 per cent of over N3 billion was paid. And since then up-to 2015, the 50% deficit is not defrayed.
The Executive Chairman, Niger State Universal Basic Education Board, (NSUBEB), Alhassan Bawa Niworu disclosed that the state is yet to resume full utilization of the opportunities of the counterparts funding of the UBE scheme.
Niworu spoke Wednesday at the validation meeting on Corruption Risk Assessment, (CRA) organised by the United Nations Development Programme, (UNDP) for states drawing from the UBE basket funds.
Organised in collaboration with Niger state government, the Corruption Risk Assessment programme examines the draw down by states who have complied with the conditionalities.
Niworu lamented that the UBE scheme was being hurdled. “We are faced with the challenges of un-assessed funds. Niger and Ondo states are lagging behind in assessing funds from the Universal Basic Education, (UBE) he revealed.
Niworu disclosed that recently he was summoned to Abuja to explain why the state had not accessed the UBE funds for about three years since 2013.
He confirmed that the state has backlogs of funds to access from the UBE basket just as he disclosed that states like Borno and Nasarawa have complied and accessed the funds completely and were therefore not in default.
Niworu while giving further details, said available records shows that Niger state had only fully accessed the 2013 funds leaving the backlogs of 2014, 2015 and 2016 unaccessed.
He explained that in 2013, Niger state government only paid 50 percent of N1billion and got N1bilion from the federal government as its counterpart funding. In 2014, we paid over N900 million, in 2015 we paid more than N1billion and we still have not been able to acceess the backlogs of the funds”.
Head of Service, Niger state, Yabagi Alhaji Sule, said the state government was doing everything to plug all loopholes in government’s cash flow and spending.
He assured that while the government appreciates the importance of the the UBE scheme, it was working on identifying vulnerable areas that are prone to corruption so as nip them.
Though the state Head of Service did not reveal if the UBE scheme in the state was enmeshed in financial misappropriation, his allusion to government screening all it’s financial commitments was suggestive of the likelihood of some identified sharp practices in the UBE scheme in the state.
Yabagi stated that as part of strategies to check corruption in public sector, the state government has developed an action plan that would strengthen accountability and transparency as well as enhanced public service delivery.