Beneficiaries of the Growth and Employment Program (GEM), a World Bank Intervention funds initiated in 2015 have raised alarm over endless delay in accessing the second tranche of the fund, warning that it might go the way of previous intervention programs, if urgent steps are not taken.
The fund, administered through the Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment, with KPMG as Project Monitoring Consultant and Price Water House Cooper (PWC), as Grant Administrator, has a maximum cap of N10m to over 500 beneficiaries, based on individual projects.
In March 2016, The Guardian learnt they went for documentation and verification, in Abuja, where the grant agreement was signed under the Accelerator Grant Agreement. Having met the requirements, in July 2016, the grantees were issued the first tranche, varying from 25 per cent to 55 per cent, depending on the business or milestone agreed on.
Spokesman of the recipients, Williams Olabayo told The Guardian that after the first tranche, KPMG assigned monitors to them, to conduct inspection if they met the milestones as agreed and signed in the contract, after which mail of acceptance was issued to those who scaled through. But to their surprise, the parties involved for the disbursement of the second tranche, which ought to be paid in October 2016, a period of three months after the first tranche, have kept mum on the issue.
“After the inspection, KPMG submitted their reports, though this came five months after the scheduled time. In the report, they noted that grantees could access their second tranche having confirmed the utilisation of the first tranche for intended purpose.
“The second tranche ranging from 45 per cent to 75 per cent of the total grant was expected to have been paid since October 2016, but 10 months after, nothing has been heard. This is a breach of the agreement signed with us,” he said.
Olabayo lamented that the endless delay has negatively affected them, to the extent that their projects have been abandoned due to paucity of fund, unplanned debts, expiration of unplanned factory spaces, and degradation of equipment, among others.
“Some of us who left our paid jobs to focus and build our businesses have since been economically helpless, as a result of the delay in receiving the second tranche, which is required to kick start a number of enterprise that will reduce unemployment in the country.
“All efforts to reach the coordinating body-GEM have not been fruitful. What is really causing this delay since 2016? What has happened to the fund? Who is holding on to the fund?”
While calling on the Federal Government to beam its search light on this initiative, they noted that the delay will not only hamper its anti-corruption campaign, it would also hamper subsequent World Bank Intervention Funds.
From the faces of the distraught grantees, it is obvious that if the issue is not addressed within the shortest possible time, they might embark on street protests that might further embarrass the government.
When The Guardian spoke with the KMPG official that interfaces with grantees, Chioma Chilaka on phone, she directed our correspondent to speak with the ministry. Efforts to get the ministry to react have not yielded any result.