Senate Committee on Public Account on Tuesday flayed the Permanent Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Gabriel Aduda over failure to appear on the investigation of N4.3 billion hidden vouchers by the ministry, threatening to issue warrant of arrest against him.
The Committee relied on the report of 2017 of Office of Auditor General of the Federation which revealed that a total of 289 vouchers under capital expenditure and 453 vouchers under overhead expenditure in sum of N3.05 billion and N1.3 billion respectively were hidden from auditors when requested.
The Ministry which had been scheduled to appear on Tuesday to respond to the issues raised by the Auditor General however declined to appear.
In a letter submitted to the Committee dated 15, March, the Permanent Secretary said they are still trying to compile the vouchers for the committee.
Angered by the Permanent Secretary’s response, the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Matthew Uhroghide said the issues raised against the ministry are grievous, giving the Ministry 48 hours to appear before the committee or else the query will be sustained.
He said that the Ministry is notorious considering the number of queries before the Committee, adding that it is the only Ministry that is not ready to account for the appropriated fund.
“We have found out that a lot of agencies have taken us for granted, and I am highly saddened that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs after receiving our invitation in the month of February now submitted a letter to us after six weeks that they will not be able to appear.
“It only means that the Ministry does not want to be accountable, we will sustain the query or issue warrant of arrest against the Permanent Secretary, if they are notorious, they have no business to get budget approval, the issues concerning them are grievous,” Uhroghide said.
The query reads, “Financial Regulation 601 stipulates that all payment entries in the cash book/accounts shall be made out in favour of the person or persons to whom the money is actually due. Under no circumstances shall a cheque be raised or cash paid for services for which a voucher has not been raised.” Section 85 (2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria states that “The Public accounts of the Federation and of all officers and courts of the Federation shall be audited and reported on by the Auditor-General who shall submit his reports to the National
Assembly; and for that purpose, the Auditor-General or any person authorized by him in that behalf shall have access to all the books, records, returns and other documents relating to those accounts’’.
“It was however observed that between January and December 2016 , a total of 289 (Two hundred and eighty nine) payment vouchers under Capital expenditure and 453 (Four hundred and fifty-three) payment vouchers under Overhead expenditure in the sum of ₦3,054,747,121.60 (Three billion, fifty-four million, seven hundred and forty-seven thousand, one hundred and twenty-one naira, sixty kobo) and
₦1,300,483,641.65 (One billion, three hundred million, four hundred and eighty-three thousand, six hundred and forty-one naira, sixty-five kobo) respectively, totalling ₦4,385,230,763.25 (Four billion, three hundred and eighty-five million, two
hundred and thirty thousand, seven hundred and sixty-three naira, twenty-five kobo) were not produced for audit as at the time of forwarding this report.
“This act is contrary to the provisions of Financial Regulation 110, extant rules and a breach of Section 85(2) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) which gave the Auditor-General for the Federation unfettered access to books and records , returns and other documents relating to those accounts’’.
“The purported expenditure will not be accepted as legitimate charges against the public funds. Consequently, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry should account for the sum of ₦4,385,230,763.25.”