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Public accounts committee: FG overshot budgetary approvals by N2.27 trillion from 2004 to 2012

By The Rainbow
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The Federal Government spent over N4 trillion from 2004 to 2012 from the Service Wide Vote without the approval of the National Assembly, the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Representatives has revealed.

The  committee further revealed that  the ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo administration spent N250m to feed former Liberian President, Charles Taylor, and his family, when they were on asylum in the country between 2005 and 2006.

The Chairman of the committee, Rep. Adeola Solomon Olamilekan (APC-Lagos), disclosed this at the weekend while briefing newsmen at the National Assembly.

The committee earlier presented the report to the House on Thursday, but it was, however, resolved that the committee should do more on its findings and present another report to the House in two weeks.

He said that executive expenditure without legislative approval contravenes the  provision of Section 80 of the 1999 Constitution.

According to the chairman, 'Most of the expenditures to which the Service Wide Vote releases were deployed are routine in nature and did not qualify for emergency funding.

'For instance between 2004 and 2012, a total sum of N1, 284,853,731.20 was spent on publicity and publication of various government programmes; between 2004 and 2005, the sum of N250m was spent on the upkeep of the former Liberian President, Charles Taylor; another sum of N14, 006,494.847.57 was also released from the Service Wide Vote for the payment of judgement debts against the Federal Government.

'The Office of the Accountant- General of the Federation, the Budget Office and the Ministry of Finance released to their various offices, a total sum of N2, 267,002,101 to a few auditors as audit fees and in 2011 alone, the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation paid out the sum of N809, 358,504 as audit fees to some external auditors carrying out audit of the Federal Government financial activities instead of the Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation.' The report also alleged that over N160m was released for the Budget and the Accountant-General's offices.

'The expenditure of N162m from the 2011 Service Wide Votes releases tagged; 'Closing Accounts' was incurred jointly by the Office of the Accountant-General and the Budget Office of the Federation.

'An expenditure of N1, 059,177,589.31($6,619,859.93 ) at the rate of $1=N160) in 2010 and 2011 was used as payment of outstanding tax on Nigeria House in New York.'

The committee further disclosed that the federal Government spent N4.17 trillion  from 2004 to 2012 as against N1.8trn approved by the National Assembly as Service Wide Votes component of the budgets of those years.

Breaking it down, the committee said it translated to  N2.27trillion extra budgetary spending or 220 per cent above the Service Wide Votes as approved in the budget for the period.

Olamilekan added: 'Such extra-budgetary expenditures constitute a breach of Section 81 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999(as amended) and an illegality.'

He said the committee discovered in the course of its oversight that the Service-Wide Vote was converted to a recurrent fund by the government instead of an infrastructure vote.

'Such releases were mainly used to finance recurrent expenses not targeted at critical and strategic sectors of the economy and the releases were random and did not follow any clear pattern.

'The Service Wide Votes had become an alternative budget, which government prefers to patronise than the annual budget, leading to poor implementation of the annual budget as approved by the National Assembly.'