The House of Representatives committee on Public Accounts said yesterday that the N16 trillion service-wide votes (SWV), a contingency appropriation administered by the president through the minister of finance between 2004 and 2013, was yet to be accounted for by the federal government.
The committee chaired by Rep Adeola Solomon (APC, Lagos), at a budget defence of Budget Office, also raised alarm on the various sums of money totalling N5.1 billion said to have been used to finance unbudgeted expenses spent on the activities of the Presidential Advisory Committee (PAC) led by Gen. Theophilus Y. Danjuma in 2010.
The breakdown of the total showed that the out of budget expenses gulped N3.9 billion while N1.28 billion was sunk into PAC.
Other issues that were scrutinised, under the SWV, by the committee were: N1 billion expended by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on printing of ballot papers by a South African firm, N5.7 billion released to the National Hajj Commission (NAHCOM), N65 million spent by the Minister of Justice on the ministry’s participation at the 3rd Conference of State Parties to the United Nations and 5 per cent Redemption Fund meant for the defraying of the cost of pension for federal government workers.
Rep Solomon, who said the existence of SWV encourages fraud, further stated that it is a “budget within a budget run by the Budget Office, whose return is often 100 per cent” performance at the end of any fiscal year.
According to him, the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation has issued eight queries to the BO just between 2010 and 2011 on matters regarding this issue, which he said PAC is seeking clarifications on whether the vote is justified, source of its authority and how it is retired.
Responding, Director General of the BO, Dr Bright Okogu, set the record straight by noting that all monies been alluded to were not spent by the his office. He explained that his office only gets instruction to release same to Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the government.
Okogu, said the SWV is an expenditure not anticipated at the time the budget was made, adding that the PAC’s expenditure, which is one of the issues upon which he was queried is not under his purview.
He said it was an ad-hoc committee, which has since folded up, that was run by the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation. “I don’t know how much they spent. My office has submitted to your committee a detailed document on the issue,” he said.
But the chairman of the committee and other members insisted that the query was directed at his office. After minutes of exchanges, it was suggested to Okogu that he should write, formally, to the committee, that he was instructed to release money to the SGF and did so, but have no knowledge of what was done with it.