Min­istry dis­bursed N10.4bn debt with­out due process – Re­port

The Punch - - FRONT PAGE - Ifeanyi Onuba, Abuja

AN au­dit con­ducted on the ac­count of the Min­istry of Jus­tice has re­vealed how the sum of N10.4bn was re­leased for judge­ment debt with­out laid-down pro­ce­dures.

The au­dit, which was con­ducted by au­di­tors from the Of­fice of the Au­di­tor-gen­eral for the Fed­er­a­tion, also re­vealed how the sum of N32.5m was spent by of­fi­cials of the min­istry on for­eign trav­els with­out ap­proval.

De­tails of the in­frac­tions were con­tained in the au­dit re­port of the Au­di­tor-gen­eral, a copy of which was ob­tained by our cor­re­spon­dent in Abuja.

The au­dit re­port was signed by the Au­di­tor-gen­eral for the Fed­er­a­tion, Mr An­thony Ayine.

Judge­ment debt refers to money that a court of law or­ders the los­ing party to pay to the win­ning party. The par­ties in the case may ei­ther be an in­di­vid­ual, a fam­ily, a com­pany, an in­sti­tu­tion or a gov­ern­ment

The au­di­tor-gen­eral’s re­port stated that the com­mit­tee sad­dled with the re­spon­si­bil­ity of man­ag­ing the dis­burse­ment of judge­ment debt was dis­solved in 2013.

It said that as of the time when the N10.4bn was dis­bursed by the Min­istry of Jus­tice in 2017, the com­mit­tee had yet to be re­con­sti­tuted.

The re­port stated that lack of con­trol, as wit­nessed in the dis­burse­ment of the judge­ment debt, could lead to loss of pub­lic funds.

Ayine, in the re­port, rec­om­mended that the So­lic­i­tor-gen­eral of the Fed­er­a­tion and per­ma­nent sec­re­tary in the Min­istry of Jus­tice should im­me­di­ately con­sti­tute the com­mit­tee as re­quired by law.

The re­port read in part, “Ex­am­i­na­tion of the bud­get of the Fed­eral Min­istry of Jus­tice re­vealed that the sum of N460.95m was ap­pro­pri­ated for pay­ment of judg­ment debts for 2016 and N10bn ap­pro­pri­ated for 2017, to­talling N10.46bn.

“Fur­ther ex­am­i­na­tion re­vealed that the com­mit­tee sad­dled with the re­spon­si­bil­ity of man­ag­ing the fund was dis­solved af­ter the 2013 fi­nan­cial year and is yet to be re­con­sti­tuted af­ter the 2016 and 2017 ap­pro­pri­a­tions.

“how­ever, the min­istry has been dis­burs­ing this sum with­out a com­mit­tee in place. Lack of con­trol could lead to loss of pub­lic funds.”

In the area of for­eign trav­els, the au­dit found that N32.35m was paid to of­fi­cers be­tween March and Septem­ber 2017 as es­ta­codes and re­turn air tick­ets with­out ap­provals.

It said the in­abil­ity of the min­istry to at­tach ev­i­dence of ap­proval from the head of Ser­vice (in the case of the civil ser­vants) and ap­provals from the Pres­i­dent (in case of a min­is­ter) was a vi­o­la­tion of the pro­vi­sion of the cir­cu­lar HCSF/CSO/HRM/ POL.1420/1 dated Jan­uary 22, 2015 and HCS/PS/SPSO/244/1/26 of July 25 2016, re­spec­tively.

Ayine in the re­port said the ex­pen­di­ture in­curred would not be ac­cepted as le­git­i­mate charge against pub­lic funds.

“In­cur­ring ex­pen­di­tures with­out nec­es­sary ap­provals could lead to loss of pub­lic funds. The Solic­i­tor­gen­eral of the Fed­er­a­tion and per­ma­nent sec­re­tary is re­quested to re­cover the sum of N32.35m and pay to Con­sol­i­dated Rev­enue Fund and ev­i­dence of re­cov­ery for­warded for my con­fir­ma­tion,” Ayine said in the re­port.

The re­port also said a to­tal of 68 pay­ment vouch­ers amount­ing to N71,19bn which was paid be­tween March and Au­gust 2017 were not pro­duced for au­dit in vi­o­la­tion of sec­tion 85(2) of the Con­sti­tu­tion of the Fed­eral Repub­lic of Nige­ria 1999 (as amended) and Fi­nan­cial Reg­u­la­tion 108.

“There­fore, I can­not cer­tify the pay­ments a le­git­i­mate charge against pub­lic funds. There may be risk of mis­ap­pro­pri­a­tion and mis­ap­pli­ca­tion of funds,” he added in the re­port.

The Min­is­ter of Jus­tice and At­tor­ney-gen­eral of the Fed­er­a­tion Abubakar Malami had said that while N10bn was paid in 2017 as judge­ment debt, about N150bn re­mained un­paid.

he said the devel­op­ment had prompted ben­e­fi­cia­ries to mount se­vere pres­sure on the min­istry.

An ex­pert in pub­lic sec­tor ac­count­ing, Charles Ofo­mata, said the au­di­tor-gen­eral’s of­fice should be strength­ened in a man­ner that would make him to sanc­tion those that had com­mit­ted fi­nan­cial in­frac­tions.

Photo: AP­PEALS

•L-R: Spe­cial Ad­viser on Agri­cul­ture to the La­gos State Gov­er­nor, Ms Bisola Olu­sanya; AP­PEALS project ben­e­fi­ciary, Mrs Olayinka Oluwa­toyin; La­gos State Com­mis­sioner for Agri­cul­ture, Mr Gbo­la­han Lawal; an­other ben­e­fi­ciary, Mrs Olayinka Oluwa­toyin; Na­tional Project Co­or­di­na­tor, AP­PEALS project, Dr Amin Ba­bandi; and rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Deputy Gov­er­nor of La­gos, Mr Ade­doyin Ade­sanya, at the grad­u­a­tion of the project’s Batch 1 ben­e­fi­cia­ries on Sun­day...

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