The Federal Government Tuesday said a total of N180 billion accrued to the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P) last year.
The disclosure came as the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, led three other ministers and the SURE-P secretariat to defend the programme launched last year in the wake of the partial removal of subsidy on petroleum products.
Out of the N180 billion, the sum of N179 billion was dedicated to implementation of projects while the remaining N1 billion was set aside as running cost for the SURE-P secretariat which oversees the entire programme.
The Director General, Budget Office of the Federation, Dr Bright Okogwu, stated these Tuesday at the investigative hearing into the mandate and implementation of the programme. The investigation was organised by the House of Representatives Joint Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream), Finance, State and Local Government.
Okogwu said that out of the funds earmarked for projects, the sum of N105 billion has been paid to contractors handling various jobs leaving a balance of N75 billion.
Okogwu said that as at January 31, 2013, the sum of N536.35 million has been expended by the SURE- P secretariat, leaving a balance of N463 million.
Former Nigerian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom and Chairman of the SURE-P, Dr Christopher Kolade, said that contrary to the belief in some quarters, his office neither awards nor executes contracts.
He said that it was the responsibility of the Project Implementation Units (PIUs) to ensure that the projects domiciled in the various Ministries Departments and Agencies were executed while the secretariat does the overall supervision to ascertain that the jobs were executed according to specifications of the contracts.
Kolade said the SURE-P did not amount to a duplication as the Federal Government decided to use the model to execute specific projects to supplement the efforts of the MDAs in the various sectors.
Minister of Finance, Okonjo-Iweala said the Director of the Budget Office of the Federation was in the right position to give an account of the finances of SURE-P being the designated chief accounting officer of the programme.
According to her, the accounts of the programme is domiciled at the Central Bank of Nigeria while the SURE-P Committee works with the Project Implementation Units in the relevant MDAs and visits project sites for monitoring and evaluation.
Okonjo-Iweala debunked the insinuations that the SURE-P was a duplication of the functions of the MDAs.
She reminded the lawmakers that SURE-P was set up in line with the demand by Nigerians including members of the National Assembly that government should separate the funds accruing from the partial removal of fuel subsidy from the normal budgetary provisions to MDAs to ensure that such funds were deployed to specific projects and managed in a transparent manner.
The hearing witnessed presentations from the Ministries of Finance, Works, Health, Niger Delta Affairs and Transport on the specific projects domiciled in their domains.
Chairman, House Committee on Petroleum Resources(Downstream), Hon Dakuku Peterside, said the investigation became necessary because there had been mixed feelings in the public domain since. SURE-P was created as an intervention fund last year.
Peterside said the probe was designed to establish if the mandate and operations of SURE- P has been consistent with the original ideas canvassed by government at its inception. He said that the probe was also meant to ascertain whether the fund has become a duplication of efforts and a political tool designed to feed certain political interests.