The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is the latest among federal government institutions whose top officials will face threat of warrant of arrest by the National Assembly.
This time it is the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Gabriel Aduda, who may take the fall for failing to explain the whereabouts of N 4.3 billion vouchers.
The Permanent Secretary’s fate follows his alleged refusal to appear before the Senate Committee on Public Accounts investigating the disappearance of the humongous sum.
Aduda had earlier declined an invitation by the Committee to appear before it, penultimate Tuesday, to respond to issues raised by the Auditor General, preferring instead to forward a letter to the Panel, dated 15 March, wherein he stated that they were still trying to compile the vouchers for the committee.
His response however irked the Committee’s Chairman, Sunday Adeola (APC, Lagos West) who mandated the Ministry to appear before it in 48 hours.
The Chairman of the Committee described the issues raised against the ministry as grievous, adding that only the Ministry can account for the missing fund.
The Committee alleged that between January and December 2016, a total of 289 (Two hundred and eighty-nine) payment vouchers under Capital expenditure and 453 (Four hundred and fifty-three) payment vouchers under Overhead expenditure for ₦3,054,747,121.60 (Three billion, fifty-four million, seven hundred and forty-seven thousand, one hundred and twenty-one naira, sixty kobo) and ₦1,300,483,641.65 (One billion, three hundred million, four hundred and eighty-three thousand, six hundred and forty-one naira, sixty-five kobo) respectively, totalling ₦4,385,230,763.25 (Four billion, three hundred and eighty-five million, two hundred and thirty thousand, seven hundred and sixty-three naira, twenty-five kobo) were not produced for audit as of the time of forwarding this report.
The Public Accounts Committee hinged its action on the report of the Office of Auditor General of the Federation 2017, which revealed that a total of 289 vouchers under capital expenditure and 453 vouchers under overhead expenditure in the sum of N3.05 billion and N1.3 billion respectively were hidden from Auditors when requested.
A visibly angry Senator Adeola also complained that “we have found out that a lot of agencies have taken us for granted, and I am highly saddened that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs after receiving our invitation in February now submitted a letter to us after six weeks that they will not be able to appear.
“It only means that the Ministry does not want to be accountable, we will sustain the query or issue a warrant of arrest against the Permanent Secretary. If they are notorious, they have no business to get budget approval, the issues concerning them are grievous.”
The query reads: ” Financial Regulation 601 stipulates that all payment entries in the cash book/accounts shall be made out in favour of the person or persons to whom the money is due. Under no circumstances shall a cheque be raised or cash paid for services for which a voucher has not been raised.”
Section 85 (2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria states that “the Public Accounts of the federation and all officers and courts of the federation shall be audited and reported by the Auditor-General, who shall submit his reports to the National Assembly; and for that purpose, the Auditor-General or any person authorized by him in that behalf shall have access to all the books, records, returns and other documents relating to those accounts.
“This act is contrary to the provisions of Financial Regulation 110, extant rules and a breach of Section 85(2) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) which gave the Auditor-General for the Federation unfettered access to books and records, returns and other documents relating to those accounts.
“The purported expenditure will not be accepted as legitimate charges against the public funds. Consequently, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry should account for the sum of ₦4,385,230,763.25.”