The immediate past Lagos State Commissioner for Economic Planning and Budget, Ben Akabueze, has come to the defence of former Governor Babatunde Fashola over allegations of financial misappropriation levied against his former boss.
It would be recalled that Fashola received heavy criticism nationwide after it was disclosed that he spent about N78 million on the upgrade of his personal website, www.tundefashola.com.
Speaking on a Channels Television program, “Straight Talk With Kadaria,” Akabueze said if Lagos State’s budget amounted to N400billion, the former governor had no business stealing in millions.
He said: “Unfortunately, by the time this thing came up, I was no longer in government. So, I don’t have access to the paperwork which is the basis on which this project was justified.
“But as far as I know, I believe that it must have followed the same process of independent evaluation. I think it would be useful for people to look at the full scope of the project and then make a determination about whether or not it did not represent value for money.
“We ran an annual budget of over N400bn. I think that if he (Fashola) really wanted to steal money, it wouldn’t be N78m out of over N400bn that he had access to. Of course, every kobo of public funds must be accounted for and I hope in the future, we can get the full facts and it will be made available to the public.”
Akabueze, who is the presiding pastor of the King’s Court Parish of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Victoria Island said the process of dispensing funds in the Lagos State government was water tight, making it almost impossible for anyone to divert public money.
He said: “I don’t know of anybody succeeding at anything like that (stealing) because we had a system that we designed as much as possible to prevent such. Take for instance, in our capital expenditure, we had in-house experts, so, if it was a construction project, regardless of the agency of government undertaking the project, the experts in the ministry of works and infrastructure would do an independent assessment of the cost.
“We had quantity surveyors, engineers, architects that offered advice. If it was an IT related project, the team in the Ministry of Science and Technology would do an independent evaluation and so for you to steal; you would need to corrupt the whole process.”
Akabueze, however, admitted that some of the projects executed by the state government were done at high prices.
He said this was so because the government had high standards, especially in the area of road construction.
The former commissioner also justified the over N419bn debt incurred by the Fashola administration. He said the state government by principle, only took loans to finance infrastructural projects.
He added, “Road construction can be quite expensive and especially as we also adopted high standards for construction. If you look at all the roads that have been done in the last several years, you will see that they were done well. Just go back and look at the major road projects.”
“Look at the Awolowo Road which was done during former Governor Bola Tinubu’s administration. That road is still in good shape today. The Itire Road is still in a good shape today. Look at Western Avenue that was rebuilt by the Fashola administration, that road is still in a good shape today.”