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SERAP charges Buhari to probe ‘missing N3.14bn’ in Nigeria’s Finance Ministry

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Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to investigate N3.14billion missing, mismanaged or diverted from the Ministry of Finance.

The body charged him to direct the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, as well as anti-corruption agencies to start work.

On Sunday, SERAP said the allegations are documented in the 2018 and 2019 annual audited reports by the Auditor-General of the Federation.

In a letter signed by deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said a grave violation of Nigerians’ trust should not be swept under the carpet.

It stresses that the Finance Ministry has a duty to ensure transparency and accountability, which implies providing leadership in the efforts to curb public sector corruption.

“The allegations that N3,143,718,976 of public funds are missing will also clearly amount to a fundamental breach of national anticorruption laws”, the memo read.

Citing the report of the Auditor-General for 2018, SERAP noted that the Ministry spent N24,708,090 on pre-retirement training without any document.

The consultant hired was accused of failing to quote any price as cost of the training but the Ministry paid him N5,670,060.

The request for payment was dated January 20, 2017, while the first payment voucher in his favour was dated January 13, 2017 (7 days before his request).

The Ministry failed to account for N2,885,772,493 released from the Service Wide Vote for estacodes and allowances for meetings, and contribution to Organization for Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

The money was allegedly spent without approval or backing documents, an act the Auditor-General decried.

SERAP lamented how the Ministry also awarded a contract on May 17, 2017 for N98,540,500 without any document, contrary to the Public Procurement Act;

Deduction of N9,354,809.52 as Withholding Tax and Value Added Tax without any evidence of remittance;

Spending of N98,759,299 between January and December 2017 without any document, contrary to Financial Regulation.

The 2019 report further found that the Ministry paid N20,466,744 as cash advances to staff of ‘You-Win’ between February 8 and December 18, 2018, but failed to retire the money.

“The advances were granted for the purchase of store items, repairs and other services that would have been made through the award of contract.

“Government lost N2,046,674 which would have accrued as taxes had these jobs been undertaken through award of contracts.

“The Ministry also reportedly paid N15,471,850 to two consultants for capacity building in Kano and Adamawa States without supporting document, contrary to paragraph 603 (1) of the Financial Regulations.”

Tasking Buhari to act, SERAP echoed the concern of the Auditor-General who made it clear that the funds must be recovered.

The letter gave the Federal Government a 14-day ultimatum to take action or face a lawsuit to compel compliance.

The letter copied Malami; Bolaji Owasanoye, Chairman Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC); Abdulrasheed Bawa, Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Others are Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance and Budget, and Chairmen of Senate and House of Representatives Public Accounts Committees.