The House of Representatives on Tuesday grilled the Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, for hours over extra-budgetary expenditure worth over N1.819 trillion in the 2014 fiscal year.
Worried by the response provided by the AGF to various queries issued by the office of the Auditor General of the Federation, the lawmakers rejected the Accountant General’s responses, which it said failed to address various concerns raised in the audit queries.
According to the audit query, the breakdown of the extra-budgetary expenditure are N54 billion borrowed fund for a staff of PHCN in 2014, N745.4 billion payment allegedly approved by President Goodluck Jonathan from the Natural Resources Fund account, and N594.3 billion loan withdrawn from the Stabilisation Fund, which belongs to the three tiers of government.
It also includes the sum of N73.5 billion paid in 2014, out of which N36.4 billion was released to the National Security Adviser for rehabilitation and construction of a dam; N31.3 billion paid to an account to which a political appointee was a signatory; and additional sum of N2.8 billion paid for the purchase of hand sanitisers.
Similarly, the Auditor General queried the Accountant General’s office over the sum of N200.9 billion deducted from the Federal Government’s share of the Federation Account, out of the total sum of N797.9 billion reported in the 2014 financial statement, showing the variance of N52.7 billion.
However while responding to various audit queries issued by the Auditor General of the Federation in 2014 financial year, Idris disclosed that the N54 billion was borrowed fund for the staff of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria in 2014 for payment of staff pension.
Also, the House said it was not satisfied by the explanation of the Accountant General that the closing balance that was not returned to the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation was not government money, but the money belongs to other agencies such as unions and taxes meant for other states.
According to him: “For example, I know that when the issue of ASUU occurred in the past and the government wanted to pay the outstanding allowances, they went and borrowed money from TETFUND
“I am not saying the N54 billion was borrowed from Pension money. But I want to assure the parliament that we will provide the source of that money and other information required from us.”
The Accountant General, who explained that the 2014 financial closing balance was not remitted to the Consolidated Revenue Fund, argued: “It is third party money deducted from a source such as union dues and taxes meant for states.
“That money does not belong to the Federal Government and that is why it was not remitted to the CRF so that we will not run into trouble when it is time to pay.”
Idris also informed the Committee on Public Accounts that the delay in the passage of the national budget and extension of the capital budget beyond the financial year made it impossible for his office to prepare the financial statement of the government for audit as required by extant financial year.
While responding to the allegation bothering on financial sabotage, the Accountant General explained: “We are for the Federation and cannot sabotage the Federation.
“We are doing our best to ensure things are done normally.”
He also said the delay in getting a transcript of accounts from various Ministries, Department and Agencies occasioned by the attitude of staff from the MDAs or outright lack of capacity was also partly responsible for the delay in preparing government’s annual statement of accounts.
According to him: “If there is no rendition of account from the MDAs, there is no way the account can be prepared.
“Sometimes, we threaten to withhold allocation to them before they send in their transcript and sometimes, we have to send our staff to assist them.
“But going forward, we are deploying ICT, which will now be used.”
Idris, however, explained that his office was working on a draft law that will amend the existing law, stating the specific period for the submission of annual financial statement to the Auditor General, adding that the draft law will soon be submitted to the National Assembly.
He argued that the approval for the release of the N745 billion was for 23 special accounts, adding: “There was no specific request for approvals.”
He also explained that that the Police Reward Fund account, which was operational up to 2012, suddenly became dormant.
While ruling, the Committee resolved to summon the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Hameed Ali, over the 10 per cent cocoa levy account, as well Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, over the Police Reward Fund, which was dormant after 2012.
Hon. Wole Oke, who frowned at the development, said the parliament would have no option to demand the refund of the money if the Accountant General fails to provide the authority letter from President Muhammadu Buhari.