Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology, Dr Mohammed Bello
By Omeiza Ajayi
ABUJA – Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology, Dr Mohammed Bello has denied allegations of financial misconduct levelled against him in his last tour of duty at the Federal Ministry of Agriculture.
The Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Dr Folasade Yemi-Esan had in a query to Dr Bello dated May 11, 2020 asked him to within 72 hours answer to allegations of buying an “uncompleted carcass” building for the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development FMARD in the sum of N7 billion.
Bello was also accused, among others, of giving out seven deep drilling rigs for borehole procured at N1.3bn to some unnamed individuals under “fraudulent arrangements.”
However, in his reply to the query dated May 14, a leaked copy of which was obtained by Vanguard, Bello said the Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh and the Federal Executive Council FEC actually gave approval for the purchase of the building.
He described the allegations as “baseless, completely concocted, unfounded, without facts, malicious and calculated to deceive”, urging the Head of Service to “kindly note that we have been invited, interrogated and cleared by the EFCC and ICPC on this particular matter after glaring facts were presented to them”.
Some of the allies of Dr Bello at his former ministry also punctured the allegations, saying the man was first posted to the ministry on a rescue mission to clear the rot during the first term of President Muhammadu Buhari.
“While denying in totality all the allegations, I hereby forward my representations and response to all the false allegations contained in the query,” Dr Bello said in his reply.
“I am constrained to give details of the transactions I approved to set the records straight and clear my name. I will like to state the following that all transactions at the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development were approved through Administrative processes and principles as traditioned in the conduct of government business.
“That FMARD runs a rolling budget year in year out as most projects are being captured as ongoing; that all contracts/procurement and payments at the FMARD followed due process. There are procedures for contracts/procurement and payments handled by various departments in all government agencies, FMARD inclusive.
“That my tenure as Permanent Secretary at FMARD commenced from 10th January, 2019 to 18th December 2019 and hence cannot be held responsible or liable for actions prior to 10th January, 2019.
“I state that contractors were duly paid. The allegation of contractors not been paid is totally false. All contractors whose contract was captured in the 2018 budgetary allocation were paid in accordance with budgetary releases. However, contractors whose contracts are ongoing were rolled over as ongoing. Rollover capital projects are not new in contract management.
A copy of the Perm Sec’s Response to Query by the HOS
“I will state that due process was followed to the latter in the purchase of the said building. After submission of recommendations to the Hon. Minister of Agriculture; He approved that Council Memo be made to that effect. We then sent the Memo to the Secretary to Government of the Federation who then scheduled it for Federal Executive Council Approval. Consequently, the Federal Executive Council approved the purchase of the building.”
Allegations of Witch-hunt
Bello fingered the minister and the current Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Mu’azu Abdulkadir, as being behind the series of allegations levelled against him.
He said; “it may interest you to know that as I left FMARD in December, 2019, MTB (Ministerial Tenders Board) met that same December 2019 and among the projects approved then includes: The remodeling and partitioning of new office complex; Procurement and installation of 1000KVA generator set; Fencing of new office complex and other related auxiliaries; Procurement and Installation of ICT internet at the new office complex and; Procurement and Installation of Solar Energy in FMARD.
“The outlined 5 projects as per Para 4 (i — v) totaling ₦1, 478, 372, 897.13 as approved vide Extract of the said MTB December 2019 is attached as Annex Viii. This approval was granted under the leadership of Alhaji Sabo Nanono and Dr. Mu’azu Abdulkadir being the current Hon. Minister and Permanent Secretary respectively. These are the same people alleging that the purchased office building was unfit for use.
“It is worthy of note at this point that it is the current Permanent Secretary FMARD who is actually guilty of virement as since after the approval of the above contracts has refused to sign and release letters of award of contract to the respective contractors but instead diverted and vire the funds to other projects in his locality that were never part of the appropriation, neither advertised nor bided for. This is a case of unequivocal virement.
“The projects in his locality that he awarded and executed in complete disregard for due process (vide copy attached as Annex is estimated at over ₦3 billion. For ease of reference, the 27 specific contracts he executed in his locality are asterisked in red ink as contained in Annex IX”, Bello stated.