By Abubakar Y. Zakariya, Abuja
The Senate, under its Public Account Committee has uncovered N2.2 billion received by the Federal Ministry of Justice between 2017- 2021 from the Service Wide Votes (SWV) for expenditure but which has not been accounted for.
The Committee chaired by Senator Mathew Urhoghide is currently investigating over 200 agencies that benefited from Service Wide Votes, between 2017-2021 which is about N5 trillion.
A Service Wide Vote (SWV) which is also known as the Consolidated Revenue Fund Charge is the country’s contingency fund in the annual budget.
Investigation revealed that the Service Wide Votes (SWV) collected by the Ministry of Justice was not subjected to the scrutiny of the Office of Auditor General of the Federation and was not also privy to the Senate Standing Committee mandated to oversight the agency.
Meanwhile, at the investigative hearing the members of the Committee on Public Account were surprised when the line item in the money collected from the Service Wide Votes in 2019 for Capital project was put as “Critical Needs” According to the Authority to Incur Expenditure (AIE), produced by the office of Accountant General of the Federation.
The members of the Committee were disturbed about the N650 million earmarked for the “Critical Needs’ in the line item under Capital expenditure.
Surprisingly, in the record of the Ministry, there is nothing that revealed that N650 million was received, but the AIEs from the Office of Accountant General of the Federation revealed that N650 million was released for the Ministry for ‘Critical need’ for Capital expenditure in 2019.
In addition, N955 million via AIEs was released to the.Ministry from SWV in 2017, but the record made available by the Ministry showed N549 million which has a difference of N406 missing .
In 2018, the Ministry claimed to have received N492 million , but the releases from the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation showed that N591 million was released which showed that N99 million is yet to be accounted for.
In 2019, the record from the Accountant General Office showed that the Ministry collected N650 million under the Capital project with the line item of ‘Critical need’, the Ministry failed to produce a record that backed up the N650 million.
In the year 2020, the record showed that the Ministry collected N62 million for recurrence.
Finally, in 2021, N1.4 billion was released from the Office of Accountant General through AIEs for recurrent expenditure, but the Ministry claimed to have received N400 million.
The Ministry was unable to present the letters of request and approval for the money collected from Service Wide Votes.
But, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry , Mrs B.E Jeddy said that the Ministry will search for the relevant documents and present them to the Committee on November 10.
The Chairman of the Committee while speaking during the hearing said that the fund was not audited by the Auditor General, because they are not budgetary provisions.
“It was not audited by the Auditor General at all, they are not budgetary provisions, go and tell everyone that benefited from it and give us the necessary documents,” he charged.
The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry assured the committee of engaging relevant departments that benefited from the fund to give the feedback to the committee.