The Senate has uncovered how N2.2 billion collected by the Federal Ministry of Justice between 2017- 2021 from the Service Wide Votes was unaccounted for.
The Senate Committee on Public Accounts, led by Senator Matthew Urhoghide, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Edo South, is currently investigating over 200 agencies that benefited from Service Wide Votes between 2017 and 2021. The money involved is about N5 trillion.
A Service Wide Vote, which is also known as Consolidated Revenue Fund Charge, is more or less the country’s contingency fund in the annual budget.
Investigation revealed that the Service Wide Votes collected by the Ministry of Justice was not subjected to the scrutiny of the Office of Auditor General of the Federation and the Senate Standing Committee mandated to oversee it.
At the investigative hearing weekend, members of the committee were surprised when the line item in the money collected from the Service Wide Votes in 2019 for capital project was put as “critical needs” according to the Authority to Incur Expenditure, AIE, produced by the office of Accountant General of the Federation.
The committee members were disturbed about the N650 million earmarked for the “critical needs’ in the line item under capital expenditure.
Surprisingly, in the record of the ministry, there was nothing to indicate that N650 million was received, but the AIEs from the Office of Accountant General of the Federation revealed that N650 million was released for the Ministry for ‘critical need’ for capital expenditure in 2019.
In addition, N955 million via AIEs was released to the Ministry from SWV in 2017, but the record made available by the Ministry showed N549 million which showed a difference of N406 missing.
In 2018, the ministry claimed to have received N492 million but the releases from the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation showed that N591 million was released, which showed that N99 million is yet to be accounted for.
In 2019, the record from the Accountant General Office showed that the ministry collected N650 million under capital project with line item of ‘critical need’, the ministry failed to produce record that backed up the N650 million.
In 2020, the record showed that the ministry collected N62 million for recurrent, just as in 2021, N1.4 billion was released from the Office of Accountant General through AIEs for recurrent expenditure, but the, ministry claimed to have received N400 million.
The ministry unable to present letters of request and approval for the money collected from Service Wide Votes.
On her part, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice, Mrs B.E Jeddy, said the Ministry would search for the relevant documents and present same to the committee on November 10.
Chairman of the committee, while speaking during the hearing, said the fund was not audited by the Auditor General because there was no budgetary provision.
According to him, it was not audited by the Auditor General at all; there are no budgetary provision, go and tell everyone that benefited from it and give us the necessary documents.
Mrs Jeddy assured the committee to engage relevant departments that benefited from the fund and feed it back with the information needed.