SERAP writes Buhari, seeks probe of ‘missing N3.1bn in Ministry of Finance’

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Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to “use his good offices to direct the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN, and appropriate anti-corruption agencies to investigate allegations that over N3bn of public funds are missing, mismanaged or diverted from the Federal Ministry of Finance.”

The organization said the allegations are documented in the 2018 and 2019 annual audited reports by the Auditor-General of the Federation.

SERAP said: “Anyone suspected to be responsible should face prosecution as appropriate, if there is sufficient admissible evidence, and any missing public funds should be fully recovered.”

In the letter dated 24 December 2021, and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said: “The reports suggest a grave violation of the public trust. As trustee of public funds, the Ministry of Finance ought to ensure strict compliance with transparency and accountability rules and regulations.”

According to SERAP, “as a key agency of government, the Ministry has a sacred duty to ensure transparency and accountability in the spending of the country’s resources. This implies providing strong leadership in the efforts to curb public sector corruption.”

“This leadership is important for the Ministry to enjoy the public trust and confidence essential for its effectiveness and impact.”

SERAP said: “The allegations that N3,143,718,976.47 of public funds are missing will also clearly amount to a fundamental breach of national anticorruption laws and the country’s international anticorruption obligations including under the UN Convention against Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party.”

The letter, read in part: “Investigating and prosecuting the allegations, and recovering any missing public funds would improve the chances of success of your government’s oft-repeated commitment to fight corruption and end the impunity of perpetrators. It will also serve the public interest.”

“According to the report of the Auditor-General for 2018, the Ministry of Finance spent N24,708,090.00 on pre-retirement training but without any document. The consultant hired also failed to quote any price as cost of the training but the Ministry paid N5,670,060.00 to the consultant. Request for payment from the consultant was dated 20 January 2017 while the first payment voucher in his favour was dated 13 January 2017 (7 days before his request).”

“The Ministry also reportedly failed to account for N2,885,772,493.27 released to the Ministry from the Service Wide Vote to take care of estacodes and other allowances for representing the Federal Government in meetings, and contribution to Organization for Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).”

“The money was spent without approval, and any documents. The Auditor-General is concerned that the money may have been mismanaged.”

“The Ministry also reportedly awarded a contract on 17th May 2017 for N98,540,500.00 without any document, contrary to the Public Procurement Act. The project was not also budgeted for. There was no evidence of performance of the contract. The Ministry also deducted N9,354,809.52 as WHT and VAT but without any evidence of remittance. The Auditor-General wants the money recovered.”

“The Ministry also reportedly spent N98,759,299.20 between January–December 2017 without any document, contrary to Financial Regulation 601.”

“According to the 2019 report of the Auditor-General, the Ministry paid N20,466,744.00 as cash advances to staff of ‘You-Win’ between 8 February and 18 December, 2018 but the Ministry has failed to retire the money.”

“The advances were granted for the purchase of store items, repairs and other services that would have been made through the award of contract. Government lost N2,046,674.40 which would have accrued as taxes had these jobs been undertaken through award of contracts. The Auditor-General wants the money recovered.”

“The Ministry also reportedly paid N15,471,850.00 to two consultants for capacity building in Kano and Adamawa States but without any supporting document, contrary to paragraph 603 (1) of the Financial Regulations. The Auditor-General is concerned that the money may have been diverted, and wants it recovered.”

“SERAP notes that the consequences of corruption are felt by citizens on a daily basis. Corruption exposes them to additional costs, and undermines economic development of the country, trapping the majority of Nigerians in poverty and depriving them of employment opportunities.”

“We would be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel your government to comply with our request in the public interest.”

The letter was copied to Mr Malami; Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, Chairman Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC); Mr Abdulrasheed Bawa, Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC); Mrs Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning; and chairmen of the Public Accounts Committees of the National Assembly.

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