Adedayo Akinwale and Udora Orizu in Abuja
The House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts yesterday accused the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF), Mr. Ahmed Idris, of engaging in extra budgetary expenditure contrary to the powers conferred on his office by approving additional funds for the conduct of the 2015 general election.
The Chairman of the House Committee on Public Account, Hon. Oluwole Oke, said the accountant general approved and released an extra N73 billion to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the 2015 election against the N45 billion approved for the commission, insisting that the money be refunded to the treasury by the commission.
The lawmakers also asked the AGF to provide a balance of N16.9 billion from another N36.9 billion approved for the INEC by the Presidency out of which only N10 billion was paid to INEC by the accountant general’s office for the election.
Oke said that the approval of N107.7 billion for the electoral umpire and he disbursement of the additional N73 billion against the N45 billion budgeted for INEC amounted to gross application and abuse of office by the accountant general who is in charge of public treasury.
Making reference to another audit query from the office of the Auditor-General of the Federation, Oke said that another N37,428 million was also withdrawn from the 10 per cent rice milling funds for the election.
He said: “The Accountant General should explain the direct deduction of the fund from the federal government’s account”
The Representative of the AGF and Director of Accounts, Mr. Emma Olawale, said the funds advanced to the electoral umpire were approved in 2014 by the then President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.
According to Olawale, the AGF office wrote to the Presidency and then Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and got the approval to advance the funds to the INEC officials.’
Mrs Amina Zakari, who acted as INEC Chairman at the time of the release of the fund, told the lawmakers that they wrote to the Presidency and the accountant-general’s office and got approval for the funds.
Zakkari further told the committee members that the electoral umpire were not mandated by laws to refund any fund approved for it for election purposes, but the lawmakers insisted that the approval of the funds by the accountant general’s office was in breach of the financial regulations.
The lawmaker however demanded that the request and approval memo of the funds be made available to the committee and asked the Director-General Budget Office of the Federation, Mr. Ben Akabueze, to appear before the probe panel at the next adjourned date for clarifications.
Also, the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Custom Service, Col. Hamid Ali (Rtd) faulted the claim by the accountant general that the N38.6 billion released to the service in 2014 was a loan, saying the money was part of the statutory budget of the service.
Ali told the Committee that the amount represented an intervention fund that was duly appropriated for in its budget for the year and was not meant to be a loan.
He said a presidential directive to the accountant general approved the payment, adding that the final amount was N67 billion short of the over N100 billion naira approved for the NCS to meet the contingence of the time.
But Olawale, who represented the AGF at the hearing, said that following the presidential directive to make the money available to the NCS, the office made extra-budgetary mopping up of funds from other sources to meet the payment.