The Ondo State Government has explained that the funds for the COVID-19 Action Recovery and Economic Stimulus Programme code-named “ONDO-CARES” were never diverted or mismanaged, saying the fund was paid directly to all beneficiaries in the state.
The state Commissioner for Budget and Economic Planning, Pastor Emmanuel Igbasan, while reacting to the rumours of mismanaging money allocated for the project in the state, said that the target of 80,734 vulnerable people benefited from $20million grant through ONDO-CARES was being achieved 100 percent.
The Commissioner stated that the initiative is an intervention by the World Bank and released $750m to the nation, distributing $20m to each of the 36 states of the Federation, including the FCT.
He, however, distanced the state government from the disbursement of the funds directly to the beneficiaries and described the allegation that funds allocated for vulnerable groups of people under the State COVID-19 Action Recovery and Economic Stimulus are diverted or mismanaged, as not not only untrue but unfounded.
Igbasan explained that the NG-CARES which is a two-year emergency intervention programme designed by the World Bank in collaboration with the Nigeria Governors’ Forum to support states in Nigeria to restore the livelihood of poor and vulnerable households, stabilise Micro and Small Enterprises affected by COVID-19 pandemic in recent years.
Speaking on the mode of distributing the funds to the beneficiaries, Igbasan said there was a Single Social Register which captures names of the vulnerable group of people in the state, disclosing that the Single Social Register predated the project, and that there was no way anyone could have influenced or mismanaged the distribution of ONDO-CARES project.
The register, according to the Commissioner, was subjected to scrutiny and verified by World Bank officials before it was adopted for the distribution.
Distancing the state government from the disbursement of the funds directly to the beneficiaries, Igbasan explained that the World Bank had some selected and dedicated banks, including Bank of Industry, that were involved in the disbursement on the approval of the beneficiaries.
He said: “On the Covid-19, if your name has not been validated from that Single Social Register, which is also domiciled with the Federal Government of Nigeria and validated by World Bank, no kobo (no money) can be paid to your account. And another safeguard is that, it is not the state government that pays them (beneficiaries) directly.
“There is no element of fraud in NGCARES project in Ondo state and it is quite unfortunately and disheartening when I saw it on the social media, when one of the eminent personalities of Ondo State, Senator Ayo Akinyelure was crying fowl, displaying ignorance of the programme at his level,” Igbasan said.
Igbasan noted that the disbursement linked indicators and community-based measures deployed to select beneficiaries make it extremely difficult to influence results or record any fraud.
“The project has been delivered clinically to the target beneficiaries; we can give you list and phone numbers of beneficiaries as press men to go and verify independently, the process has very transparent and being monitored by the World Bank officials.
“The beauty is that the state cannot get a dime except the project has been verified adequately.
“The money does not come to the purse of the state government directly. This is the assurance we have on efficiency and transparency,” he said.
Igbasan, however, said Ondo and Zamfara states had been rated as the best in terms of quality and effective implementation of the NG-CARES project in the country.