Chronic debts: Budget Office to deduct MDAs’ overhead funds for settlement

Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government currently owing various bills are now to have their overhead funds deducted from the first line charge to settle the debts.

Already, the Budget Office had been mandated to have the overhead funds of such chronic debt-owing government institutions so deducted.

The development followed revelations that many government institutions owe huge sums to firms and other

Government  agencies, either for products supplied or services rendered.

Some of the firms and agencies being owed huge debts by the government institutions included Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) and the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB.)

The AEPB for instance, the Nigerian Tribune gathered, is being owed about N10 billion, mainly as environmental fees by various government institutions.

The huge debt, according to a source, forced the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Musa Bello to order immediate sack of former AEPB boss, Shehu Lawan.

Despite the sack, according to the source, the minister made him chairman of a ministerial task team to recover the about N10 billion owed the board, and which he said, happened under his watch.

The minister gave the team eight-week ultimatum to recover the owed funds; the team is currently on the fourth week.

Nigerian Tribune gathered that the Head of Service of the Federation, Winifred Ekanem Oyo-Ita , last week, threatened that her office would have no option than to write the Budget Office to make deductions from first line charge of the MDAs, should the government institutions failed to defray their indebtedness to the board.

The Head of Service was quoted as having said that her office would employ same method of deduction as it did in the efforts to settle the outstanding electricity bills owed to AEDC.

According to her, the MDAs had no business owing, as according to her, the expenses ought to have been fully catered for in their annual overhead budgetary expenditures.

She was quoted as having said, “We want to convey a very strong message to all the MDAs under the office of Head of Service, that is, the ministries and various parastatals that if efforts are not made to clear these debts by the next overhead allocation, we will have no option than to ask the budget office to make deductions at first charge.”

“That is the arrangement we even have here with the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company. We have given the budget office approval to deduct our bills and they are still doing it,” she said.

Concerning the debts owed AEPB, the Head of Service disclosed that a committee would be set up comprising members of  her office and FCT Administration to negotiate with the erring MDAs for the purposes of reconciliation and payment of the outstanding debts.

It was gathered that the chairman of the ministerial task team on the recovery of the N10 billion owed the AEPB, Lawan, met with the Head of Service, at the weekend, over the debts.

At the meeting, he revealed that due to the dwindling revenue accruing to the FCT Administration, authorities were finding it difficult to settle bills owed sanitation contractors who provide solid and liquid waste disposal services, which he said, amounted to more than N200 million per month.

He lamented that various organisations, residents, plazas, commercial banks and hospitals, among others, are all indebted to the administration.

Lawan, however, noted that the FCT administration was not willing to embarrass federal institutions, by either dragging them to mobile courts or by discontinuing their wastes disposal services.