Senate said it has uncover how Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the federal government have abused Service Wide Votes (SWV) of about N3.8 trillion between 2017- 2021 by its standing committee. Consequently, the Senate has urged the Federal Government to use the supplementary budget approach to address emergencies rather than Service Wide Vote method. The Senate also urged the Executive arm of government to use Supplementary budget approach to meet shortfalls instead of the current Service Wide Vote mechanism which amounts to affront /erosion of the approval powers of the National Assembly. The Senate also urged the Executive to limit the release of Service Wide Vote to recurrent emergencies or shortfall genuinely desired with satisfactory proof, just as it also called for an in-depth investigation into the operations of IPPIS to stern the rising cases of irregularities in the system.
These Resolutions of the Senate were sequel to the presentation and consideration of the report of the Senate Committee on Public Accounts on releases and utilisation of funds disbursed to Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs from the Service Wide Vote( SWV between 2017 and 2021 by the Chairman, Senator Matthew Urhoghide. According to the report, the Committee invited 207 government agencies to appear for investigation, but only 119 agencies appeared before the committee while 85 agencies shunned the invitations of the Committee. Among the agencies that failed to appear before the Committee for investigation were State House, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Petroleum Resources, , Nigeria Defence Academy, Federal Ministry of Health, Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria. In the report, the Committee said that some agencies did not make formal request for the money that was sent to them by the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation.
It was also discovered that hundred of billions were claimed to have been used for the purpose of paying salaries shortfalls whereas such agencies had already collected appropriate for personnel emoluments and were IPPIS platform. The Senate further discovered that MDAs have not been disclosing Service Wide Votes transaction documents such as payment vouchers, vote book. The Committee’s recommendations that were adopted by the Senate are “That the SWV supplementary releases be limited to recurrent emergencies or shortfall genuinely desired with satisfactory proof, 2. That where Capital Supplementation must be made from the SWY, only the personal authorisation of Mr. President as the approving authority shall suffice That MDAs must strictly ensure that funds received from SWV are applied to the specific purpose of request and release. Going forward, the Auditor-General for the Federation should be given full access by the OAGF and other MDAs to audit Service Wide Vote expenditures annually and report to the National Assembly either as part of the Annual Report or as a Special Report.
“That the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation and the Cash Management Department, Federal Ministry of Finance should rejig its record keeping procedures to enhance efficient operations of the Federal Treasury House/FMF. That the Senate carries out in-depth legislative investigation into the operations of IPPIS to stem the rising cases of irregularities in the system. The Senate Public Accounts Committee should henceforth make it a point of duty to undertake in depth scrutiny of the disbursements from the Service Wide Vote between 1° January and 31 December 2022, as part of the overall scrutiny of the annual budget of the Federal Government. That the Executive should be advised to use supplementary budget approach to meet emergencies or shortfalls rather than the current Service Wide Vote mechanism which amounts to affront/erosion of the approval powers of the National Assembly. This is the very first time the financial activities of the Federal Government relating to disbursement from the Service Wide Votes has been brought under scrutiny, and you have seen the plethora of abuses and irregularities observed. Our inquiry has clearly brought to the fore the urgent need for in depth scrutiny of this vote, henceforth.
“Consequently, the Committee prays the Senate to approve and adopt the above recommendations and communicate same to the Executive for implementation, towards achieving improved effectiveness, efficiency and economy in the use and management of public funds.” Earlier, in the report, the Committee gave its General Observations and Findings as follows: “This is the first time a search light is beamed on the SWV and it operations. There was a steady rise in the disbursements from the Service Wide Vote, from N887,008,900,486.00 in 2017 to over N1.93 trillion in 2021. Some of the MDAs did not make formal requests for the money that was sent to them by the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation. Even where the approval of Mr. President was sought and obtained, some MDAs used the resources for unrelated expenditure purpose.
“Sometimes approvals were wrongly obtained from sources other than Mr. President, such as these from the Minister of Finance. Some MDAs collected the fund for projects that were already budgeted for in the Appropriation Acts over the years. Hundreds of Billions of Naira were claimed to have been used for the purposes of paying salary shortfalls whereas such Agencies had already collected appropriation for Personnel Emolument and were on the IPPIS platform. The operation of the Service Wide Vote releases is opaque, especially releases made through REMITA which are hidden from the Auditor. The practice makes it impossible for the Auditor-General for the Federation that is constitutionally saddled with the responsibility of audit of public accounts to have full access to funds disbursed to MDAs from the Service Wide Vote. MDAs have not been disclosing Service Wide Vote transaction documents such as Payment Vouchers, Vote Books, GIFMIS Printouts and CBN REMITA Printouts to Auditors and/or to the over sighting Committees of the National Assembly. Some MDAs don’t have the relevant desk officers manning specialised positions in their Accounts Sections like in the Federal Ministry of Justice and the Nigeria Law Reform Commission. Such practice promotes incompetency.
“In some MDAs, capital expenditures were carried out without appropriate tax deductions and remittances. Denials by MDAs of not receiving releases from the Accountant-General of the Federation despite overwhelming evidence of valid AIEs issued and funds released.
In some instances, huge sums Of money were thrown at agencies which they didn’t apply for/or are not in the know of where the money came from and for what purpose. Some MDAs refuted SWV receipts while the AGF claimed that the funds were released to the benefiting agency. That IPPIS intervention towards meeting insufficiencies or shortfalls in Personnel Costs has been bastardised and running into huge sums of money needing legislative scrutiny. Poor record keeping in the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF) as well as the Cash Management Department (CMD) in the Federal Ministry of Finance (FMF), leading to some of the Releases made by the Office having no AIFs, no authorisation attached, poor narration of AIEs by the OAGF, inaccurate records of releases to MDAs, duplicated releases to agencies, etc. Most of the MDAs involved in the period under review deliberately avoided the Committee’s invitation for appearance and refused to make submissions, perhaps for lack of satisfactory explanations on the utilisation of the funds released to them.”