Business & Economy - News - January 4, 2022

Budget: How audit indicted NASS, 234 MDAs for financial recklessness over N377.51bn spending

By Bassey Udo

The National Assembly, along with 234 Federal ministries, departments and agencies were indicted for financial recklessness over the expenditure of about N377.5 billion approved allocation in the 2019 fiscal appropriation for the execution of various capital projects, the Auditor General of the Federation has revealed.

The revelations were contained in a 470-page annual audit report on non-compliance and internal control weakness issues in Federal MDAs for the 2019 Fiscal year published by the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation.

Published on the official website of the OAuGF, the detailed report signed personally by the Auditor General of the Federation, Aghughu Adolphus, was submitted on September 15 last year to the Clerk of the National Assembly. A copy of the report was obtained on Monday by MEDIATRACNET in Abuja.

Scope of Report

The report, which covered 19 Sections, uncovered massive abuses bordering on several violations of Financial Regulations by the National Assembly and the other MDAs in spending various allocations in the year’s budget.

The violations included refusal by the MDAs to retire financial advances; not returning unspent capital votes to the treasury; irregular awards of contracts; granting of advances above statutory thresholds; payments for contracts not executed; payment for foreign travels without evidence of approval; refusal to present contract documents for verification y the auditors; store items not taken on ledger, and refusal to attach relevant supporting documents to payment vouchers.

Other infractions included disbursement of various sums without payment vouchers; non-remittances of internally generated revenues; non-deduction of taxes; non-remittance of taxes; violation of e-payment policy; extra-budgetary spending/virement without approval; misappropriation/misapplication of funds; irregular payments/payment of unapproved allowances, and engagement of external solicitors without approval.

Detailed findings
Details of the report showed that 23 MDAs refused to retire at the end of the year over N5.17 billion approved for payment of advances, with the House of Representatives topping the list of defaulters with N2.81billion unretired advances.

Also, the Senate was found guilty of making payments of over N1.72billion out of a total of N3.93 billion approved for the award of contracts by 11 MDAs and refusing to present the payment vouchers or contract files for audit examination.

Besides, the report identified the Anambra-Imo River Basin Development Authority, Owerri as the worst offender among four MDAs that refused to return unspent approved capital votes to the Federal treasury. The agency withheld about N2.52billion out of a total N6.19billion approved for MDAs as capital votes for the year.

On irregular award of contracts, the report identified the Nigeria Police Force Headquarters as the major culprit among 18 MDAs indicted for awarding contracts valued at over N4.4billion without due process. The police alone spent over N1.14 billion in irregular contract awards.

Apart from spending over N1.85billion on payments above statutory thresholds out of over N4.55 billion approved for 24 MDAs for advances granted, the Federal Medical Centre, Keffi in Nasarawa State was also indicted for disbursing over N5.51billion out of N6.57billion approved for four MDAs without payment vouchers.

The Medical Centre was also found culpable for refusing to deduct taxes valued at about N534.2 million from staff salaries and contractors’ payments out of a total of N829.7 million expected from 19 MDAs, contrary to Financial Regulations, which made it mandatory for full deductions and remittances of the Value Added Tax (VAT), With-holding Tax (WHT) and Stamp Duty due on supply and services.

Similarly, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority was found guilty of violating the relevant Financial Regulations by refusing to remit over N2.99billion out of over N5.83 billion realized from taxes by 12 MDAs.

Out of over N127.13 billion realized by 15 revenue generating MDAs, the Nigeria Customs Service Headquarters, Abuja refused to remit to the Federal Government coffers over N125.9billion in contrary to the provision of the relevant government circulars.

Treasury Circular Ref: No. TRYA10&B10/2016 OAGF/CAD/026/V.111/101 November 22, 2016 directed all Federal Government agencies to remit 100 percent of their internally generated revenue (IGR) to the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF).

Also, Finance Circular No. BO/RVE/12235/259/VII/201 of November 11, 2011 required all Federal agencies to limit their utilization of IGRs to not more than 75 percent of the gross revenue, while the balance of not less than 25 percent be remitted to the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF).

The Nigerian Security Printing and Minting Plc, an agency of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in charge of the printing security documents and minting of the national currency, was indicted for making irregular payments of about N97.98 billion as unapproved allowances to staff, out of a total of about N132.53 billion by 20 MDAs found to have indulged in similar illegalities.

Besides, the NSPM was also found guilty of spending N112.34 million out of N227.1 million traced to five MDAs as extra-budgetary expenditure/virement on hiring the services of external Solicitors and Advocates without prior consent and approval of the Attorney-General of the Federation. The National Insurance Commission (NAICOM) was also accused of spending about N1088million for a similar purpose.

On payments for contracts/services not executed, the report accused the Nigeria Ports Authority of disbursing over N4.55billion out of about N6.28 billion approved for five MDAs for the execution of various contracts.

During the year, the report said six MDAs were indicted for paying a total of N182.8million (about $100,377.30) for foreign travels by staff without evidence of official approvals, in view of the embargo on international conferences, seminars, workshops, study tours, trainings, paper presentation, negotiating/signing of MOU abroad. The FCT Social Development Secretariat was alleged to have spent about N56.1million for that purpose.

The report also captured how the Nigerian Communications Satellite Limited, Abuja spent about N250.1million out of about N801.3 million of store items by 13 MDAs, and refusing to take them on ledger charge, while the Code of Conduct Tribunal spent about N434.5million out of a total of N4.36 billion approved for 27 MDAs and refusing the attach the relevant supporting documents.

The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development was found liable for paying out over N700.2 million out of a total of N785.12 million by 10 MDAs in violation of the e-payment policy of the federal government, just as it was indicted for extra-budgetary spending/virement valued at about N48.43 billion out of about N49.54billion by nine MDAs.

Again, the Ministry was indicted for misappropriation/ misapplication of over N11.55 billion out of N18.2 billion recorded against 10 MDAs.

As part of the recommendations contained in the report, the Auditor-General for the Federation, Aghughu Adolphus, asked the National Assembly to ensure that all the affected MDAs were made to either render accounts for the various amounts standing against them, or be made to refund same to the government.

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