Senate debates auditor general’s query to power ministry over N7b
The Senate has begun debate on a query issued to the Ministry of Power by the Auditor General over the N7b allegedly smuggled into the Ministry’s budget without appropriation by the National Assembly. The Senate Committee on Public Account said the ministry needed to provide more evidence to support its claims that the transaction was not in breach of financial regulations, as alleged by the Auditor General’s query in its 2015 Report.
The Committee, chaired by Senator Mathew Urhoghide, at a meeting on Friday, wondered how N7b could appear in the Ministry’s account, when the 2015 budget was yet to be passed and while the account for 2014 was already closed.
The lawmakers observed that there was no evidence that such money was budgeted for in respect of the Hydropower Transmission Project in either 2014 or 2015 fiscal year. The query, as issued by the Auditor General, reads: “The sum of N7b was received by the Ministry of Power in January 2015, as shown in the accounts. This fund was spread into four commercial banks under the Account name Hydropower Transmission Project.
“The budget for 2015 was not yet passed, as at the time this money was received by the Ministry in January 2015, while the account for the year 2014 was already closed as at 31st December, 2014.
“It was also observed that there was no evidence that such money was budgeted for in respect of the Hydropower Transmission Project in either 2014 or 2015 fiscal year of the Ministry Appropriation Act.”
But the Ministry of Power in a written response to the report explained that, “The Federal Government released the money under the special Intervention Fund to the Ministry for the funding of Hydroelectric Power Project. The fund was released as special warrant and, therefore, was outside of the Ministry’s approved budget.
“The Office of the Accountant General of the Federation approved project accounts for the fund in four different banks.The fund was transferred to Diamond Bank – N2 billion, Heritage Bank – N2 billion, Access Bank – N2 billion and Wema Bank – N1 billion.”
It was gathered that the money was approved by the then President as loan for the evacuation of 40MW generated from Kashimila Hydropower station.
Urhoghide, however, demanded that appropriate documents be tendered by the ministry to prove that the money was properly utilized, as claimed by the Ministry of Power.