Alleged misappropriation of N4.3bn: Senate gives Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary 48 hours to appear

The Senate Committee on Public Accounts has given Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Gabriel Aduda, forty-eight hours to appear before it.

It threatened to issue a warrant of arrest on him if he rebuffs the summon.

The Committee led by Senator Mathew Urhoghide was angered that Aduda again failed to appear in person to give an explanation on the alleged misappropriation of N4.3 billion.

The Senate Committee invitation was sequel to a query raised by the Office of Auditor General of the Federation in its 2017 report against the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The query which had since been adopted by the Senate Committee 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.

The Auditor General’s report noted that the act of the Foreign Affairs Ministry “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 query read in part: “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 actually 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 of all officers and courts of the Federation shall be audited and reported on 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.

“It was however observed 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 in the sum of ₦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 at the time of forwarding this report.

“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.”

At the Senate Committee sitting on Tuesday, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry was absent to respond to the issues raised in the query.

In a letter submitted to the Committee dated March 15, 2021, the Permanent Secretary said he was still trying to compile the vouchers for the committee.

His explanation was however rejected as the Senate Committee chairman described the Ministry as notorious for spurning invitation.

Senator Urhoghide expressed disappointment that Mr Aduda could only forward a letter to the Senate, six weeks after he was invited to appear before it.

He said: “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 the month of 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 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.”

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