Demand explanation for unauthorised N2bn, others deposited in commercial bank
By Levinus Nwabughiogu
House of Representatives on Public Accounts Monday discovered unbudgeted N7bn, alleged to have been spent by the Federal Ministry of Power on Kashimbila Power Project.
The Committee also discovered some government money kept in commercial banks in 2015 without authorisation.
It, therefore, demanded an explanation for the N2 billion deposited in a commercial bank by the Ministry in 2013 without any record provided to the office of the Auditor-General.
The Committee also requested to know the duration of the deposit, the interest so far yielded and all the correspondences between the office of the Accountant General of the Federation and the Ministry on the money.
Chairman of the Committee, Rep Wole Oke describe the expenditure by the Ministry as extra-budgetary and also demanded the 2015 appropriation of the Ministry.
But in response to the discoveries, the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Didi Esther Wilson-Jack said that the N7 billion which the Ministry kept in four commercial banks in 2015 were meant for the Kashimbila hydropower project.
Agreeing that the money was not captured in the Ministry’s budget for that year, Jack said it was a special intervention fund released to the Ministry by the government.
She, however, added that the Ministry got the approval of the Accountant General of the Federation to lodge the money in the four banks.
Jack further explained that shortly after the introduction of the Treasury Single Account by the government, the money was also moved from the commercial banks to the TSA account of the Ministry.
She said that the Ministry was trying to recover the money from the bank, stressing that it has already reported them to the Central Bank of Nigeria over violation of banking regulations.
She said the Ministry wrote to the Accountant General in December 2012 seeking permission to open an account with Aso Savings and Loans Limited to address issues of staff Housing and got approval in January 2013 when the lodgment was made.
Further enquires by the committee on the whereabouts of the money saw the Director of Finance of the Ministry, A. J. Omotayo explaining that the ministry has spent the money on the project.
The Committee, therefore, demanded details of the expenditures.
It also summoned the management of Aso Savings and Loans Limited over the N2 billion deposited with them by the Ministry of Power since 2013 which the Ministry said was meant for the staff housing scheme.
The committee also demanded the appearance of the Central Bank of Nigeria for more details.
The House Committee however deferred about 12 of the 14 queries of the Ministry, while setting up an ad-hoc committee to liaise with the Ministry and reconcile relevant documents.
On the query of the Auditor General of the Federation concerning the refund of about N30 million said was extra spending by the Ministry on the World Energy Summit which took place in 2015, the Permanent Secretary said that there was no extra-budgetary spending on the summit.
She said: “Two approvals were made for the World Energy Summit. One was N44.671 million for the acquisition of space and construction of the pavilion. But as a result of paucity of funds, only N39.446 million was released and duly retired.
“The second approval was for N30.316 million which was approved as travel expenses. But the Minister could not attend the summit and so, the delegation was reduced which also meant that the money had to reduce.
“For that, N21.204 million was released as travel expenses and has been duly retired. This money was paid directly to all those who attended the summit. So, there was no extra payment of N30 million as contained in the Auditor General’s report.”
Also, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Police Affairs, told the Committee that the sum of N110.151 million complained about by the Auditor General could not be collated and paid into the TSA account.
He said that N85 million of the money was seized through a garnishee order from the court as a result of a case involving the Nigerian Police Force while the balance was transferred to the TSA before the Ministry was scrapped in 2015.
To this end, the Committee asked for the details of the case, a copy of the order and a detailed bank statement on the account amongst other details.