SERAP Asks Buhari, Sylva to Probe N116m Spent on Stationery by Petroleum Ministry

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Udora Orizu in Abuja

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari and the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, to urgently probe how N116 million was spent by the ministry to buy biros, letterhead and toners in 2015, and to disclose the amount also spent on the same items between 2016 and 2020.

The Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation had last Thursday before the Senate Public Accounts Committee revealed that officials of the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources spent N116m to buy biros, letterhead and toners in one year.

The breakdown of the expenditure showed that the ministry spent N14.5 million to purchase Schneider biros, N46 million to print the ministry’s letterhead, and N56 million to procure toner for its photocopy machines.

SERAP in a statement signed by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, yesterday, urged the President to refer the matter to appropriate anti-corruption agencies for prosecution, if there is evidence of misuse of public funds.

The organisation said an effective and efficient ministry ought to keep careful track of how it spends public money, and put in place a system to eliminate corruption, mismanagement, unnecessary or unreasonable expenditures.

According to SERAP, ‘’Transparency and openness in the spending by your Ministry would ensure the public trust, efficient, effective and competent delivery of public goods and services. Openness in the spending by your Ministry will also strengthen the country’s democracy and promote efficiency and integrity in government.

‘’SERAP is concerned that the allegations by the Office of the Auditor-General raises serious violations of anti-corruption legislation, the Nigerian Constitution and international anti-corruption standards. Public officials and MDAs should act and take decisions on the spending of public funds in an open, transparent and accountable manner, and submit themselves to the scrutiny necessary to ensure this. A democratic government accountable to the people must be as transparent as possible and must not withhold information for self-serving reasons or simply to avoid embarrassment.

‘’We would therefore be grateful if you would indicate the measures being taken to probe the spending of N116m on biros, letterhead and toners in 2015, and disclose the total amount spent on the same items between 2016 and 2020 within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter.

‘’If we have not heard from you by then as to the steps being taken in this direction, the Registered Trustees of SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel your Ministry to implement these recommendations in the interest of transparency and accountability.

‘’The Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources has a legal obligation to conduct an effective investigation into any allegations of breach of anti-corruption legislation and international standards, including those relating to the spending by the ministry on biros, letterhead and toners between 2015 and 2020. Our requests are consistent with the government’s repeated promise of transparency, and in keeping with the requirements of the Nigerian Constitution, national anti-corruption legislation, Freedom of Information Act, and Nigeria’s international obligations, including under the UN Convention against Corruption, and the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption.’’