N500bn SURE-P fund not missing, says Okonjo-Iweala

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The Federal Government on Tuesday said that the N500 billion belonging to the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P) funds is not missing.

The Minister of Finance and the Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who stated this when she appeared before the Senate Ad hoc Committee on SURE-P, said that contrary to media reports, no money was missing from the N816 billion SURE-P funds generated between February 2012 and Sept.

She said N300 billion of the amount went to the Federal Government while the balance of N500 billion was allocated to the states and local governments.

The minister said that the various deductions made on the federation accounts were also made on the SURE-P funds before they were shared among the three tiers of government.

“We got about N816 billion from February 2012 to December 2013. The Federal Government portion is managed by the SURE-P Committee.  From the period February 2012, we (FG) got about N300 billion.

“The amount available for the Federal Government during the period that was in question was about N300 billion and the balance went to the states and local governments.

“As far as I am aware, there is no SURE-P money missing. There was a headline about a missing N500 billion for SURE-P. This is exactly the balance that goes to states and local governments.

“When it was said that N500 billion was missing, we said no money was missing because the balance of that money had gone to the states and local governments,” she said.

Okonjo-Iweala said the SURE-P committee was in the best position to furnish the senate committee with the details of expenditure on the programme.

She also told the committee that the Director-General, Budget Office, who is the accounting officer for SURE-P, had the details of the financial status of the programme.

“I think you need the SURE-P committee to come and tell Nigerians how much money they received; how it was used and what are the programmes it is being used for,”   Okonjo-Iweala said.

The minister said that 124,000 graduates registered for the Graduate Internship Programme (GIP), an aspect of the SURE-P being managed by the Ministry of Finance.

According to her, the ministry has approved 1,364 firms to partner with it on the GIP out of the 4,669 firms registered, while 2,000 interns were already on the payroll.

She said the Federal Government was determined to ensure that the GIP was given the special attention it deserved to address the problem of youth unemployment in the country.

“In fact we are putting a lot of energies to fast track the programme because we have a large number of unemployed graduates to address the need of our young people,” she added.

The chairman of the ad hoc committee on SURE-P, Sen. Abdul Ningi, directed the minister to present documented evidence to back her position on the N500 billion in question.

“This money would still be viewed as unaccounted for until documentary evidence is presented to back your position.

“This needs concrete evidence to work with because Nigerians are eager to know how this money is distributed among the three tiers of government.

“We are direct representatives of the people, so we must have verifiable data to explain this matter to them before they lose confidence in our ability to protect their interest,” Ningi said.

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