SERAP writes Lawan, Gbajabiamila over another missing N4.1bn NASS funds

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Factual Pursuit of Truth for Progress

 

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has called on the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, to urgently probe alleged missing N4.1 billion budgeted for the National Assembly.

According to SERAP, the funds may have been misappropriated or diverted, as documented in the 2016 audited report by the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation.

In a letter on Saturday, May 15, signed by its Deputy Director Kolawole Oluwadare, SERAP said the allegations were not part of the disclosure by the Auditor-General in other audited reports, which stated that about N4.4 billion meant for the National Assembly was missing, misappropriated, diverted, or stolen.

The organisation further said as part of its legislative and oversight functions, the National Assembly has a key role to play in the fight against corruption in the country.

However, the group noted that only little can be achieved by the legislative body in the anti-corruption fight if the leadership and members do not first confront the spectre of alleged corruption and mismanagement within their ranks.

SERAP also urged Lawan and Gbajabiamila to identify the lawmakers and staff members suspected to be involved, and hand them over to appropriate anti-corruption agencies to face prosecution, if sufficient admissible evidence is found, and to ensure full recovery of all missing public funds.

The letter read: “Ensuring the effective investigation of these fresh allegations, and full recovery of any missing public funds would strengthen the country’s accountability framework, and show that the National Assembly can discharge its constitutional responsibility of amplifying the voices of Nigerians. It will also show that the body is acting in the best interest of the people.

“SERAP is concerned that allegations of corruption continue to undermine economic development, violate social justice, and destroy trust in economic, social, and political institutions. Nigerians bear the heavy economic and social costs of corruption. The National Assembly, therefore, has a responsibility to curb it.

“According to the Auditor-General Report for 2016, N4,144,706,602.68 of National Assembly money is missing, diverted or stolen. The National Assembly paid some contractors N417,312,538.79 without any documents. The Auditor-General wants the Clerk to the National Assembly to ‘recover the amount in question from the contractors.

“The National Assembly reportedly spent N625,000,000.00 through its Constitution Review Committee between March and June 2016 but without any document. The Auditor-General wants the Clerk to the National Assembly to ‘recover the amount from the Committee and furnish evidence of recovery for verification.

“The National Assembly also reportedly spent N66,713,355.08 as ‘personnel cost’ but ‘the payees in the Cashbook did not correspond with those in the Bank Statement’. The Auditor-General wants ‘the irregular expenditure recovered from the officer who approved the payments.

“The National Assembly also reportedly paid N116,162,522.60 to some contractors between April and June 2016 without any document. The National Assembly deducted N56,985,568.55 from various contract payments in respect of Withholding Tax and Value Added Tax but without any evidence of remittance.

“The National Assembly also reportedly paid N126,264,320.00 as cash advances to 11 staff members between March and December 2016 to procure goods and services but failed to remit the money.

“The Senate reportedly paid N747,286,680.00 as personal advances to staff members between February and December 2016 for various procurements and services but failed to retire the money. The Senate also deducted N118,625,057.48 as Withholding and Value Added Taxes but failed to show any evidence of remittance to the Federal Inland Revenue Service.

“The Senate also spent N109,007,179.73 from the Capital Expenditure vote but without any document.

“The House of Representatives reportedly deducted N821,564,296.48 from staff salaries but failed to remit the money to tax authorities. The House also paid N254,059,513.70 as advances to staff members to procure goods and services between January and December 2016 but failed to retire the money.

“The National Institute for Legislative Studies reportedly spent N375,867,000.00 to buy 11 motor vehicles in April 2016. But the Institute also paid the same contractor N36,610,000.00 in September 2016 under the same contract without approval.

“The Institute also reportedly paid N10,927,768.80 to 7 members of staff who were redeployed from the National Assembly to provide specialized services but without details about the staff paid, and without any justification.

“The National Assembly Service Commission reportedly approved N109,995,400.00 to train some officers in Dubai, United Arab Emirates but spent N127,629,600.00 as Estacode Allowances to participants, and fees for two consultants engaged for the training. The Commission also spent N9,975,000.00 as course fees for 34 officers but it also paid a consultant N4,987,500.00 for the same course fees.

“The Legislative Aides Section earned N12,274,587.77 as interests on Bank accounts in a commercial bank between January and December 2016 but failed to remit the money to the Consolidated Revenue Fund.

“We would be grateful if you would indicate the measures being taken to address the allegations and to implement the proposed recommendations, within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter.

“If we have not heard from you by then as to the steps being taken in this direction, SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel the leadership of the National Assembly to implement these recommendations in the public interest, and to promote transparency and accountability in the National Assembly.”

The group maintained that the National Assembly can only effectively perform its anti-corruption role if it can demonstrate exemplary leadership to probe the allegations of corruption and mismanagement involving the legislative body.

Meanwhile, the letter was copied to Abukabar Malami, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice; Bolaji Owasanoye, Chairman Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC); Abdulrasheed Bawa, Chairman, Economic, and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC); and chairmen of the Public Accounts Committees of the National Assembly.

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