By Deji Elumoye and Udora Orizu in
The Senate Committee on Public Account has uncovered how the Solicitor-General of Nigeria, Dayo Akpata, allegedly disbursed N4.16 billion judgement debts vote without due process.
The committee chaired by Senator Mathew Urhoghide uncovered the violation of due process by the Solicitor-General following a query by the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation (AuGF).
In the 2016 budget appropriation, the National Assembly appropriated N460 million for the judgement debts, while in 2017, another N10 billion was appropriated.
However, based on the record from the Federal Ministry of Justice, N5.3 billion was released within that two years by the federal government and N4.16 billion was disbursed to 52 beneficiaries.
There is no explanation on how the remaining N1.17 billion was spent by the ministry-whether it was returned back to Federation Account or not.
The committee then issued a query to the ministry which read: “Examination of Budget of the Federal Ministry of Justice revealed that the sum of N460 million was appropriated for the payment of Judgment Debts for 2016 and N10 billion appropriated for 2017, totalling N10.460 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, as well as lack of controls, which could lead to loss of public funds. The Solicitor-General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice 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 and Director of Finance in the Ministry, Modupe Bakare, told the committee that the ministry has not contravened any laid down procedures.
She said: “The ministry quite appreciates your concern over the 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 authorities 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 committee, however, kicked against the payment of judgement debts without recourse to the ad-hoc committee set up for the purpose of administering the payment.
Senator Suleiman Kwari in his comment said the money should be refunded to the federal government purse “because the ministry has violated the laid down procedure.”
Also speaking, the committee chairman said there was no verification as to the authenticity of the disbursement of the N4.16 billion, adding that there is need to verify the balance of N1.17 billion, adding that the permanent secretary of the ministry must be sanctioned for the payment.