The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to direct the relevant ministers and government officials to investigate the purported missing N106 billion missing from 149 ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) as of 2018.
SERAP made the demand in a letter dated 17 April and signed by Kolawole Oluwadare, its Deputy Director, according to a statement by the group on Sunday.
According to the civil society organisation, the said money was found to be missing following the recently released 2018 audited report by the Auditor-General of the Federation.
It explained that it conducted its own independent analysis of the report and noticed that various MDAs either spent appropriated funds without adequate recording, disregarded the public procurement regulations or spent past their benchmark.
The statement read: “SERAP has carefully analysed the recently released 2018 audited report by the Auditor-General of the Federation and our analysis reveals the grim allegations that N105,662,350,077.46 of public funds are missing, misappropriated or unaccounted for across 149 MDAs in 2018.”
“According to the Auditor-General, 35 MDAs failed to remit N48,551,274,468.35 of generated revenue, and N5,418,780,747.23 of statutory deductions including value added tax, withholding tax, and stamp duties in 2018, thereby ‘depriving the government of the much-needed fund to pursue its agenda.’”
“Similarly, 25 MDAs awarded contracts amounting to N18,369,595,564.47 in violation of the Public Procurement Act (PPA), 2007, including disregard to due process, irregularity in payment for contracts, excessive pricing of procurements, payment for services not rendered, and payment in full for uncompleted projects.”
“Another N23,486,881,920.49 was spent by 48 MDAs without following the rules and regulations relating to spending procedures and policies, and without any documents to support such spending. Furthermore, 11 MDAs paid N8,389,842,637.88 for store items that were not taken on store charge. The Auditor-General fears that the items may be ‘missing/misappropriated.’”
“In addition, 18 MDAs paid N354,223,774.67 as cash advances to staff without duly retiring the money, contrary to the Financial Regulation 1405 and Financial Regulation 1420. According to the Auditor-General, ‘unretired cash and personal advances may be a deliberate attempt to divert public funds for personal use.’”
“Moreover, 12 MDAs spent N371,750,964 as cash advances, above the approved threshold of N200,000.00, contrary to the Treasury Circular Ref. No. TRY/A2&B2/2009OAGF/CAD/26/V, which requires all local procurement of stores and services costing above N200,000.00 to be made only through the award of contracts.”
“There are several other infractions documented in the report, a copy of which can be obtained from the Auditor-General’s office. The 2018 audited report, therefore, suggests a grave violation of the public trust. These damning revelations also suggest that the indicted MDAs lack effective and credible internal processes to prevent and combat corruption.”
SEARP, therefore, in its letter urged President Buhari to “direct the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN, and appropriate anti-corruption agencies to investigate allegations that N106bn of public funds are missing from 149 ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), as documented in the 2018 annual audited report by the Auditor-General of the Federation”.
It also asked the president “to direct Mrs Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning to create a system of public announcements to name and shame the indicted 149 MDAs, including those that reportedly failed to remit over N55bn of their revenue; awarded contracts of over N18bn for services not rendered; and spent over N23bn without any supporting documents”.
The letter partly read: “SERAP urges you to ask Mrs Ahmed and Mr Ahmed Idris, the Accountant-General of the Federation to explain why they allegedly failed to ensure strict compliance with relevant legislation, rules and regulations across all MDAs, despite the warning and recommendations by the Auditor-General.”
“SERAP also urges you to direct Mrs Ahmed to publish full details of the yearly budgets of all MDAs, and issue regular updates that accurately detail their expenditures, including by making any such information easily accessible in a form that can be understood by the public”.
The organisation stated that recovering the alleged missing public funds would reduce the pressure on the Federal Government to borrow more money to fund the budget, enable the authorities to meet the country’s human rights obligation to progressively realize Nigerians’ rights to quality health care and education, as well as reduce the growing level of public debts.
SERAP insisted that its request is in the public interest of the country, noting that the Federal Government should publicly disclose the information within 14 days of the publication of the letter or “the Incorporated Trustees of SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel your government to comply with our request”.