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Probe spending of N881b by 367 MDAs without appropriation, SERAP tells President

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Malami

Socio-economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to direct the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, and appropriate anti-corruption agencies to investigate the reported spending of over N880 billion of public funds by 367 Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) in 2018 without appropriation.

In an open letter dated August 7, 2021, signed by SERAP’s deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said: “These damning revelations suggest a grave violation of the public trust, the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended), and international human rights and anti-corruption standards. Spending of public funds without appropriation will create opportunities for corruption.”

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According to the body, investigating and prosecuting anyone who spent public funds without appropriation and authorisation will send a powerful message that this illegal and unconstitutional practice will not be tolerated under his watch.

In the letter copied to Mr. Malami; Chairman Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye; Chairman, Economic, and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdulrasheed Bawa, and Minister of Finance, Budget, and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, the organisation said any such investigation should establish whether public funds have been mismanaged, diverted or stolen. Anyone suspected to be responsible should face prosecution as appropriate, if there is sufficient admissible evidence, and any misappropriated public funds should be fully recovered.

SERAP said: “Complying with constitutional requirements and international standards on the spending of public funds would ensure effective and efficient management of public resources, and put the country’s wealth and resources to work for the common good of all Nigerians.”

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This, in turn, would reduce the growing levels of borrowing and public debts.

“According to part two of the 2018 yearly audited report by the Auditor General of the Federation, N880,894,733,084.811 was spent by 367 MDAs without appropriation. 14 MDAs reportedly spent N162,924,630,539.20 without appropriation. Similarly, 100 MDAs spent N229,136,261,325.73 on ‘social benefits’ without appropriation.”

“Furthermore, 151 MDAs exceeded their 2018 Overhead Appropriation by N476,625,502,048.87 without any evidence of supplementary appropriation or approved virement to support the extra-budgetary spending. 102 MDAs also reportedly spent N12,208,339,171.01 on subsidies without budgetary provisions. The Auditor General is concerned that the money may have been misappropriated.

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“Identifying and naming and shaming those who spent public funds without appropriation would improve the chances of success of your government’s oft-repeated commitment to fight corruption and end the impunity of perpetrators. It will also serve the public interest.”

The body noted that public confidence and accountability in public administration are instrumental to the prevention of corruption and greater efficiency, adding that transparent and accountable public financial management is a key pillar of good governance and of vital importance to provide public goods and services to citizens, as well as create and maintain fair and sustainable economic and social conditions in the country.

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