Senate queries Finance Ministry over failure to account for N2.8bn released from service wide vote
Written by Olaide Adewale on March 22, 2021
THE Senate has raised alarm over refusal of the Ministry of Finance to account for N2.8 billion service wide vote collected from the federation account. According to the Senate, the N2.8 billion was slated to take care of estacodes and other allowances for those representing the Federal Government in internationally organized annual board meetings, conferences and workshops, including contribution to Organization for Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC. The Senate Committee on Public Accounts, led by Senator Matthew Urhoghide, PDP, Edo South, which raised the alarm, said of the said amount, payment vouchers were raised for the sum of N113,558,372.85, leaving the sum of N2,772,214,120.42 unaccounted for.
The committee is relying on the 2018 Auditor General of the Federation’s report to query on the unaccounted expenditures. Urhoghide, who expressed dissatisfaction with the abuse of service wide vote by government agencies, vowed to investigate management of service wide vote by agencies in 2021 budget. The query read: “ Financial Regulation 601 states, ‘All payment entries in the cash book/accounts shall be vouched for on one of the prescribed treasury forms. ‘’Vouchers shall be made out in favour of the person or persons to whom the money is actually due. Under no circumstances shall a cheque be raised, or cash paid for services for which a voucher has not been raised.”
During our audit, it was observed that the sum of N2,885,772,493.27 was released to the Federal Ministry of Finance from the Service Wide Vote. “This is to take care of estacodes and other allowances for representing the Federal Government in internationally organized annual board meetings, conferences and workshops including contribution to Organization for Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC. “This infraction was due to the failure of the Permanent Secretary to seek approval from the appropriate authorities to incur the above expenditure which is seemingly unaccounted for. “The Ministry may carry out such unauthorized or unapproved expenditure that may lead to diversion of public funds for other purposes. It may also lead to mismanagement and underutilization of public funds.” In his response, the Permanent Secretary of Finance Ministry, Aliyu Ahmed, told the committee that he was not with response to the query at the moment, but pleaded with the committee to give him another time to appear. At the end of the day, the committee chairman ordered the permanent secretary to appear on Tuesday to respond to the query before the lawmakers. Urhoghide, who noted that only the public accounts committee looks into the service wide vote, stressed, however, that somebody must account for how the money was spent. He said: “It is only public account that looks at the service wide vote, what of this disbursement of service wide vote, somebody must account for it this year, you must account for it.”