The Senate Public Accounts Committee has uncovered how the office of the Solicitor General of the Federation allegedly disbursed N4.16 billion judgment debts without due process.
The Auditor-General for the Federation, in a report, had queried the Solicitor-General and Permanent Secretary of Justice Ministry for disbursing the fund without a committee saddled with the responsibility of managing it.
An ad-hoc committee was set up on the order of National Assembly to administer the disbursement of the fund following the public outcry of non-payment of judgment debts by the Federal Government.
In the 2016 Appropriation Act, N460 million was voted for judgment debts while in 2017, another N10 billion was appropriated.
But based on the record from Federal Ministry of Justice, N5.3 billion was released within the two years by the Federal government and N4.16 billion was disbursed to over 50 beneficiaries.
However, there is no detail explanation how the remaining N1.17 billion was spent by the Ministry.
The query read, “Examination of Budget of the Federal Ministry of Justice revealed that the sum of ₦460 million was appropriated for payment of judgment debts for 2016 and ₦10 billion appropriated for 2017, totalling ₦10.460 billion.
“Further examination revealed that the committee saddled with the responsibility of managing the fund was dissolved after 2013 financial year and is yet to be reconstituted after the 2016 and 2017 appropriations.
“However, the ministry has been disbursing this sum without a committee in place.
Lack of controls which could lead to loss of public funds.
“The Solicitor-General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary is requested to immediately constitute the Committee as required, otherwise the provision of
Financial Regulation 3106 on irregular payments should be invoked.”
In her response to the query, the representative of Solicitor General, Director of Finance in the Ministry, Modupe Bakare, said that the ministry had not contravened any laid down procedures.
She said, “The Ministry quite appreciates your concern over disbursement of public funds in order to ensure transparency and accountability. However it might interest you to note that there is no any standard process laid down by the financial authority which the ministry contravenes in disbursing the funds in question.
“It is noteworthy to mention that the ministry has not deviated from the mandate of the Committee in making the payment. There is no pending litigation against the judgment debts before making the final payment.”
Members of the Senate Committee however kicked against disbursement of judgment debts without recourse to the ad-hoc committee set up for the purpose of administering the payment.
Senator Suleiman Kwari said the money should be refunded to the Federal Government because the ministry had violated the laid down procedure.
The Chairman of the Committee, Senator Matthew Urhoghide, said that there was no verification as to the authenticity of the disbursement of the N4.1 billion and the balance of N1.17 billion.
“There is the need to verify it,” he said, adding that the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry must be sanctioned for the payment.