Alleged 9.3bn payment: organization disagrees with Tracka Budgit, says Umahi acted within the law

An organization called the Gatekeeper News has condemned and described the allegation of financial infractions leveled against the federal Ministry of works led by David Umahi by Tracka Budgit as a malicious and wasteful investigative journey.
The organisation which claimed to be tracking government budget, had accused the ministry of paying N9.3bn to microfinance back as against rules of construction services in the country.
But in a statement signed by the Special Adviser to the minister of works on Media, Orji Uchenna Orji in Abuja yesterday, the ministry said finding and verdict of Gatekeeper News justified the ministry’s belief that Tracka Budgit’s accusation was nothing but “corruption fighting back”.
The statement said the Gatekeeper carried out independent and dispassionate investigation into the claims of Tracka Budgit and found as a fact that the Federal Ministry of Works was not deserving of the baseless and unwarranted embarrassment by Tracka Budgit.
According to the statement, the verdict of Gatekeepers News depicts the false alarm of Tracka Budgit is not only a false representation  of facts and misapplication of the law, but also contextually  misleading, investigative wasteful, absolutely  unpurposeful,  reprehensibly unpatriotic, and utterly malicious
It said: “The verdict of this Gatekeepers News has given credence to the reaction of the Hon. Minister of Works  who recently addressed the Press on this matter wherein he described the motive behind this unpatriotic publication as corruption fighting back.
“The verdict and the findings of Gatekeepers News said the Ministry of Works indeed made payments to FIMS Microfinance Bank.
It positioned that the bank is not a contractor to the Ministry of Works and does not engage in road construction.
According to the findings, the payments are for contractors working for the Ministry of Works who are customers of FIMS Microfinance Bank, and they are the ultimate beneficiaries.
“It is, therefore, not true that the Minister of Works, David Umahi, diverted payments to FIMS Microfinance Bank”, it said.
According to Tracka, the payment was made between June and December 2023 for 62 projects, including the construction of road projects across the country, amongst others.
Providing complete details of the transactions in its publication, Tracka identified some of the payments to include N1.4 billion construction of the Yaba-Yangoje Road in the FCT, the payment of N1.2 billion for the rehabilitation of a 2km road from Oriawo-boroboro-oke-medina school of science Road in Atiba, Oyo state as well as the payment of N1.2 billion for the rehabilitation of Ejule-otukpo Road in Benue State, among others.
It said the disbursement raises legality concerns as FIMS Microfinance Bank is not recognised as an institution providing construction services within the country.
The report stated, “According to its mission statement and information on its website, FIMS Microfinance Bank Ltd was incorporated on December 11, 2009, to conduct Microfinance businesses/services with a certificate of incorporation number RC 858800.
“As a financial institution, the award of road construction contracts amongst others to this company is a violation of the Public Procurement Act 2007, specifically s.16 (6) (a) (¡), (¡¡¡) and (¡v) as they state that: All bidders in addition to qualifications to carry out particular procurements; (¡¡) financial capability; (¡¡¡) equipment and other relevant infrastructure; (¡v) shall have adequate personnel to perform the obligations of the procurement contracts.”
The Minister of Works, David Umahi, has swiftly refuted the allegation that funds allocated for road construction were improperly deposited in a Microfinance Bank, contrary to existing regulations.
The minister clarified this during an inspection of the Enugu-Port Harcourt carriageway, under reconstruction by Arab Contractors Ltd in Rivers State on Saturday.
“Let me also use the opportunity to debunk something ongoing in the social media. I don’t know what they call the group. Is it Tracta Budgit or something which claims they’re monitoring the federal government’s budget? Said that we paid 8.7 billion to the microfinance bank,” he stated.
Umahi said Tracka BudgIT was wrong. He explained that from June to August 20, 2023, he was in the Senate.
He pointed out that after being appointed as a minister later, he could not have authorised payments to the Microfinance Bank for the ministry during the designated period, as stated in Tracka’s report.
On payments to the Microfinance Bank, Umahi clarified, stating that once a contractor finishes their work, the money is theirs, and they can deposit it in any bank they prefer.
He dismissed Tracka BudgIT’s claim as misleading, asserting that the organisation lacks the authority to probe where a contractor places the funds from a finished road project.
“Whether it’s paid in a commercial bank or microfinance bank, what is paramount to establish is if the work funds were rightly paid for work done,” Umahi said.
The minster therefore said, from the investigation of Gatekeeper, it was was discovered that the Ministry of Works did make payments to FIMS Microfinance Bank, as reported by Tracka.
However, Gatekeeper discovered that FIMS Microfinance Bank is not the ultimate beneficiary of the said payments. The payments are for contractors with the Ministry of Works who have accounts with the Microfinance Bank.
“Our findings revealed that Microfinance Banks operate via commercial banks, which act as correspondence banks for them in transactions involving their customers, who, in this case, are third parties.
“When customers of Microfinance Banks expect payments from any of their clients, such payments are made through the accounts of the Microfinance Banks domiciled with a commercial bank, which, in that case, becomes the correspondence bank for further credit to the original customer/contractor”, it said.