By Babajide Okeowo
The House of Representatives is to investigate the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development over extra-budgetary spending worth N48.426 billion.
The details were contained in the audit query issued by the office of the Auditor General of the Federation submitted to the House Committee on Public Accounts for further legislative action.
The lawmakers on resumption from the Christmas and New Year recess are also expected to investigate the Ministry over the non-payment of eligible contractors despite the release of N98,961,267,652.50 in the 2018 Appropriation Act.
The Office of the Auditor General observed that the Ministry incurred extra-budgetary contractual liability totaling N48,425,543,895.72.
The report stated, “The budgetary release of 98,044,134,611 representing 99.07 per cent of 2018 capital allocation of N98,961,267,652.50, and the Ministry did not take necessary actions to pay eligible contractors which led to an outstanding contract liability of N48,425,543,895.72.
The above anomalies could be attributed to weaknesses in the internal control system at the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.”
In its response to the audit query, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development informed the Office of the Auditor General that the action was regretted, adding that the matter was under investigation by relevant Anti-graft Agencies.
While acknowledging the Ministry’s response vide letter Ref. No FMARD/DFA/P/3460/1/215 of 3/11/2020, the Office of the Auditor General in its recommendations, directed the Permanent Secretary to explain reasons for the extra budgetary spending of N48, 425,543,895.72 and refund to Treasury, the sum of N48, 425,543,895.72.
It specifically directed the Permanent Secretary to forward evidence of refund to the Public Accounts Committees of the National Assembly, and otherwise, apply sanctions relating to irregular payment specified in paragraph 3106 of the Financial Regulations.
The Office of the Auditor General also queried the Ministry over alleged ‘Violation of e-payment policy to the tune of N700, 179,314.37.
According to the audit query, the risks taken by the Ministry included loss of government funds and diversion of public funds.
In its response to the Office of the Auditor General audit query, the Ministry’s management submitted that direct payment could not be made to beneficiaries because they were yet to be enrolled on the GIFMIS Platform.
In its recommendations, the Office of the Auditor General directed the Permanent Secretary to also furnish it with reasons why persons other than the rightful beneficiaries on payment Vouchers were paid and to recover and refund to the Treasury the sum of N700,179,314.37.