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SENATE UNCOVERS N44BN DISCREPANCY IN DEVELOPMENT ACCOUNT

By NBF News
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The Senate yesterday uncovered a discrepancy  of N44bn between the records of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Ministry of Finance over the Natural Resource Development Account.

It also uncovered how the presidency abused the account meant to develop the non-oil sector, particularly solid minerals in the country. This amounted to N701bn.

It was revealed that the fund, which was established in 2002, was rather used to service budget deficits, loans to federal ministries for payment of identity cards and severance benefits.

The fund was loaned to the Federal Ministry of Works for the completion of the Abuja-Lokoja road, East-West road, as well as to Siemens and Gitto Construction Company. The fund was also loaned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to purchase chancery in Tokyo, and the aviation intervention fund.

These revelations were made when the Ministry of Finance, Accountant-General of the Federation and the CBN appeared at a public hearing by the Senate Committee on Public Accounts, to give details on the management of special accounts, including the Natural Resources Fund, Stabilisation Fund and the Ecological Fund.

Giving details on the Natural Resources Fund, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Danladi Kifasi, said between 2002 and June this year, the account has received N873.4bn, paid out N701.48bn and had a balance of  N171.9bn.

However, a deputy director, finance, in the CBN, Tahir Usaman, who could not produce details of the account from 2007 said the outstanding balance as at May endingwas N168.9bn.

He stated that the notice for the hearing only mandated them to bring details of the account from 2007. But he was countered by Sen. Lawan who read the invitation letter asking the CBN to produce details of the account from 2002 till date.

The chairman of the Senate committee, Sen. Ahmed Lawan described the discrepancies in their figures as massive.

He said it was appalling that such discrepancies existed between the holder of the account and the operator of the account saying it will hurt public confidence.

Despite attempts by Kifasi and Usman to explain that the discrepancy could be straightened out if they present the bank reconciliation records, the committee insisted that unless they product documents the differences would remain massive.

The committee decried that over N62bn (2004), N24bn (2005) and N46bn (2006) were misapplied from the Natural Resources Development Account.

The committee, while lambasting the ministry that the fund was not meant for loans and servicing budget deficits said the illegal use of the fund has affected the real sector.