FERMA boss to answer for unused N10billion in coffers

A joint Committee of the Senate and House of Representatives on the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA) has threatened sanctions against the Acting Managing Director of the agency, Mr Peter Ibu.

The committee handed down the threat on Wednesday as a result of non-utilisation of N10 billion allocation in the agency’s coffers, which was meant for projects in the 2016 budget.

The dormant N10 billion allocation was uncovered during the agency’s budget defence session before the joint committee.

A member of the joint committee, Mr Magaji Aliyu (Birnin Kudu/Buji Federal Constituency, has drawn the attention of members to the released to FERMA for road rehabilitation projects in different parts of the country but which was left untouched.

The committee frowned at the action, against the background of the deplorable state of major federal roads in different parts of the country. 

It accused the agency of insensitivity to the plight of road users who have been falling victim to fatal road accidents occasioned by the deplorable condition of the roads. 

Peter IbuAliyu said, “The leadership of FERMA does not seem to be responsible. People are dying every day, six persons died along Kano/Kaduna road just yesterday (Tuesday) and the Agency had N10 billion released to it out of the N40billion appropriated in 2016 budget which was not utilised. 

“Decisive action should be taken against FERMA. The Managing Director should be removed; those in charge of the agency should be changed because it is absolutely unacceptable for people to be dying on a daily basis as a result of the deplorable condition of the highways and FERMA failing to carry out the needed intervention with the N10billion allocated to it.” 

The Chairman of the joint committee, Senator Magnus Abe also spoke in similar vein, declaring that FERMA had failed totally in its 2016 budget performance and charged the management to rise to its responsibilities.

The committee, however, pledged to ensure adequate funding for the agency, insisting that FERMA must submit a clear cut budgetary expectation document for the 2017 fiscal year.

Abe said, “Let’s say that we like to hear and understand the expectations of FERMA for 2017, believing that if we work together, we will be able to change narratives of the agency.” 

The FERMA boss however responded by saying that the agency was hampered by a number of financial challenges, leading to its inability to meet up with its mandates in 2016.

According to him, FERMA lacked trained accounting staff to handle the TSA regime, stressing the urgent need to satisfy certain requirements to secure sub-TSA accounts for field offices.

He told the committee that the agency was almost grounded in 2016, owing to the difficulty in accessing funds appropriated to it, as well as a delay in budgetary approval which got started in May 2016. 

Said he, “The challenges posed by the newly introduced zero-base budget process and the TSA policy, difficulties in accessing funds directly appropriated for direct labour, and delay in budget approval which took off in May last year were factors that hampered our activities.”

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