The Public Accounts Committee said hundred of billions of naira were disbursed to some MDAs for the purpose of salary shortfalls despite the fact that such funds had already been catered for in the yearly budgets of the agencies.

By Abdulqudus Ogundapo

The Senate has uncovered how Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the federal government diverted hundreds of billions of naira from the Service Wide Vote (SWV) account of the federation.

Chairman, Senate Committee on Public Accounts, Matthew Urhoghide, said the committee’s investigation revealed that hundred of billions of naira were disbursed to some agencies of the federal government for the purpose of salary shortfalls despite the fact that such funds had already been catered for in the yearly budgets of the agencies.

The Service Wide Vote is an extra budgetary provision for MDAs to meet dire needs or special emergencies for which no or insufficient funds were made in the Appropriation Act.

The Act that established the Service Wide Vote prescribed that there must be a formal request made to and approved by the president of the country before such funds would be accessed by any agency of the government.

But Mr Urhoghide said many of the MDAs did not make formal requests before the Office of the Accountant – General of the Federation disbursed hundreds of billions of naira to them between 2017 and 2021.

The senator made the disclosure while presenting the committee’s report on special inquiry into releases and utilisation of funds disbursed to MDAs from Service Wide Vote at the plenary on Wednesday.

Mr Urhoghide did not mention the government agencies that committed the offence while presenting the report. He was not also specific on the amount illegally disbursed to the agencies.

He said some MDAs collected funds for execution of projects that were already budgeted for in the Appropriation Acts during the years under review.

He noted that some of the approvals for disbursing the illegal transactions were obtained from the office of the former Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed.

Mr Urhoghide also noted that many of the MDAs have not been disclosing transaction details they obtained from the Service Wide Vote, an action that contradicts the law establishing the Vote.

Affected Agencies

Mr Urhoghide said the committee invited 207 federal government agencies for interrogation while the investigation lasted.

He said that out of the agencies invited, only 119 of them appeared before the committee while 85 others shunned its invitations.

Among the agencies that shunned the committee investigation were, according to the senator, the State House, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Nigeria Defence Academy, Federal Ministry of Health, Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria,a National Examination Council (NECO) and Federal Roads Safety Corps (FRSC).

To prevent corruption in the public service, the committee also recommended that:

“Where the capital supplementation must be made from Service Wide Vote, only personal authorisation of the president as the approving authority shall suffice;

“MDAs must strictly ensure that funds received from Service Wide Vote are applied to the specific purpose of request and release and; “Office of the Accountant General of the Federation and the Cash Management Department, Federal Ministry of Finance should rejig its record keeping procedures to enhance efficient operations of the Federal Treasury House.”

The Senate adopted the report of the committee.

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