The House of Representatives has accused the Goodluck Jonathan administration of spending N16 trillion on its super offices yearly while the entire country is given a meagre budget of about N4 trillion, alleging that the Presidency has been complicit in what may turn out to be Nigeria’s biggest fraud yet.
The House Public Accounts Committee made this allegation Sunday, alleging that government has allowed dozens of powerful offices, graded as “statutory and extra-ministerial departments” to spend a minimum of N16 trillion yearly while in the same breath complaining of a lack of revenue to fund key projects.
The committee also stated that though the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007, made adequate provisions on how these bodies should be held accountable, the law has been observed in breach.
According to the House committee, the amount spent by the offices are not regulated, audited or appropriated by the National Assembly and most figures tendered are generated by the respective offices and are deployed at the whims of their chief executives.
The committee alleged that it had unearthed findings showing that these agencies, which are not captured in the regular budget, generated and spent money as they pleased without seeking the approval of the National Assembly.
The committee alleged that statutory offices involved in this malpractice include the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Central Bank of Nigeria, National Communications Commission, Federal Inland Revenue Services, and Nigerian Ports Authority.
The revelation came as part of an on-going examination of finances of government and its 601 agencies, the committee said.
Speaking through its chairman, Adeola Solomon-Olamilekan, on Sunday, the committee declared that when combined with Nigeria’s official annual expenditure of more than N4 trillion, the country spends over N20 trillion yearly.
According to Solomon-Olamilekan, the N4.3 trillion budget for 2015, amid an oil crisis, is a “far cry” which does not include the finances of “statutory and extra ministerial departments” that have been running “about N16 trillion” without public auditing.
“The N4.9tn, N4.6tn or N4.3tn, as the case may be, is the budget that the whole Nigerians are listening to but in the true sense of it, the budget of other statutory and extra-ministerial departments put together is about N16tn,” he said.
“So, the total overall budget year in year out is over N20tn, which the executive arm operates, but nobody is asking questions as to the implementation of all these budgets.”
The House committee alleged that by deliberately refusing to fund the office of the Auditor General of the Federation, to weaken its capacity to check the violation, the federal government had aided and abetted the budget fraud.
The committee asserted that when a huge budget cut approved by the Ministry of Finance reduced the budget of the Office of Auditor General from N1.9 billion to N100 million in 2015, it lost the capacity to audit 601 departments and 144 foreign missions.
The committee alleged that while the Ministry of Finance had cited “falling oil prices” as the reasons for the budget cut, the real reason was to incapacitate the Office of the Auditor General, and prevent it from performing its oversight function on the 601 departments and foreign missions.
“How can we imagine that the capital budget of the office of AGF for the year 2015 was reduced from N1.9bn to N100?
The committee queried further: “Can you also imagine an office of the AGF that has 144 foreign missions to audit and as we speak, between 1999 to date, that office has not audited up to 30 of these foreign missions while three quarter of these foreign missions are also revenue generating agencies? “
“The office of the AGF has been short-changed and the budget has been reduced to nothing. As such, the government of the day is having a field day to carry out whatever its wants to do because they know they have an office that is not functioning,” Solomon-Olamilekan said.
The committee has also been saddled with the responsibility of retrieving the full report on the audit investigation into the $20bn reportedly ‘missing’ from the accounts of the NNPC from the Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
The House had during a plenary session on last Wednesday given the minister seven days to submit the full report to the lawmakers.