By Gift Chapi Odekina
The House of Representatives Committee has accused the Accountant General of the Federation 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.
Chairman of the House Committee on Public Account, Rep Oluwole One said the Accountant General approved and released an extra N73 billion to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the 2015 election against the N45billion approved for the commission, insisting that the money refunded to the treasury by the commission.
The lawmakers were also not happy with the AGF and ask him to provide a balance of N16.9 billion from another N36.9 billion approved for INEC by the Presidency out of which only N10 billion was paid to INEC by the Accountant-General’s office for the election.
Rep Oke said that the approval of N107.7 billion for the electoral umpire and the disbursement of the additional N73 billion against the N45 billion budget for INEC amount to gross application and abuse of office by the Accountant-General who is in charge of public treasury.
Referring to yet another audit query from the office of the Auditor-General of the Federation, One said said another N37,428 million was also withdrawn form the 10% rice milling funds for the election.
He said, “the Accountant-Generel should explain the direct deduction of the fund from the federal government’s account”
Representative of the AGF and l Director of Accounts, Emma Olawale said the funds advanced to the electoral umpire were approved in 2014 by the then President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.
Achirding 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 told the lawmakers that they wrote to the Presidency and the Accountant-General’s office and got approval for the funds.
She further told the committee members that the electoral umpire weren’t 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 Committee Chairman however demanded that the request and approval memo of the funds be made available to the committee, while asking 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 NCS, Hamid Ali faulted the claim by the Accountant General that the N38.6 billion naira released to the Service in 2014 was a loan, saying the money was.part of the statutory budget of the service.
He told the House Committee on Public Account that the amount represents an intervention fund that was duly appropriated for in its budget for the year and was not not meant to be a loan.
Ali said, a presidential directive to the Accountant General approved the payment, adding that the final amount was N67 billion naira short of the over N100 billion naira approved for the Service to meet the contingence of the time.
But Olawale who represented the AGF at the Hearing said 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 up the payment.
He said that in consultations with the Director of Budget, it was decided that the payment be turned into a loan to be recovered from the agency’s following year budgetary allocations.
However Ali countered saying that at no time was the Service informed that the money so approved and released to it was a loan.
The Committee Chsirman demanded evidence of having recovered the said loan over the years, while directing the Director of Budget to appear alongside the AGF at the Committee’s next sitting to clear the air on the issue.