Trade Ministry under Niyi Adebayo failed to remit over N200mn unspent COVID funds

THE Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment under its former minister Niyi Adebayo failed to account for the balance of over N200 million COVID-19 funds allocated to it in the 2020 financial year.  

This was disclosed by the 2020 Audit report published by the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation (OAuGF) and released to the public recently.

Adebayo headed the ministry from 2015 to 2023 under the former President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.


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According to the audit report, N430,000,000 was released to the ministry as COVID-19 funds for the 2020 financial year.

The report noted that the ministry spent N146,740,145 from the fund, and the ministry could not account for the difference amounting to N283,259,855 being unspent.

The anomaly, the report said, could be attributed to the weakness in the ministry’s internal control system.

Exposing the infraction, the report noted that if allowed by the government, the practice would continue to result in the loss of government funds and the diversion of public funds.

The audit noted that there was no official response from the ministry or the minister on the issue.

The report recommended that the ministry’s permanent secretary be recommended to account to the Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly the sum of N283,259,855 being the unspent balance of the COVID-19 intervention fund to the ministry.

It further recommended that the ministry remit the fund to the public treasury and forward evidence of remittance to the Public Accounts Committees of the National Assembly.

The report warned that there would be sanctions on the ministry for failing to manage public funds effectively, adding that the gross misconduct penalties prescribed in paragraphs 31150 and 31290 of the Financial Regulations 2009, respectively, should apply.






     

     

    Paragraph 111(ii) of the Financial Regulations (FR) 2009 states that “The accounting officer shall be responsible for safeguarding public funds and the regularity and propriety of expenditure under his control.”

    Furthermore, paragraph 112 (i) of the Financial Regulations states that the functions of the accounting officer shall include ensuring accurate collection and accounting for all public monies received and collected.

    In 2020, Some food warehouses in Nigeria were vandalised as looters targeted government warehouses stocked with COVID-19 relief supplies which were meant for the poor, but were not distributed in some states.

    Nigeria also recorded cases of acute hunger as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic despite various allocations to states by the Federal Government and support from local and international organisations.

    Harrison Edeh is a journalist with the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, always determined to drive advocacy for good governance through holding public officials and businesses accountable.

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