The House of Representatives has accused the Federal Ministry of Power of extra budgetary spending to the tune of N7 billion said to have been expended on the Kashimbila power project and keeping government money in commercial banks in 2015.
The lawmakers are also demanding explanation for the N2 billion deposited in a commercial bank by the Ministry in 2015 without any record provided to the office of the Auditor General.
But the Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Power, Didi Esther Wilson-Jack told the Committee that the N7 billion which the Ministry kept in four commercial banks in 2015 were meant for the Kashimbila hydropower project and given to the Ministry as special intervention.
She said even though the money was not contained in the Ministry’s budget for that year, it was a special intervention fund released to the Ministry by the government and was therefore outside the Ministry’s budget, adding that the Ministry got the approval of the Accountant General of the Federation to lodge the money in the four affected banks.
Wilson-Jack who was responding to the audit query from the office of the Auditor General of the Federation explained that shortly after the introduction of the Treasury Single Account by the government, the money was moved from the commercial banks to the TSA account of the Ministry.
Asked what has happened to the Money, the Director of Finance of the Ministry, A.J. Omotayo explained that the money has been expended on the project it was meant for, causing the Committee to demand for details of how the money was spent.
The House Committee also sought to know for how long the money was kept with the Commercials banks and the interest it generated as well as all correspondences between the office of the Accountant General of the Federation and the Ministry regarding the money.
Wole Oke, the chairman of the committee, describe the expenditure by the Ministry as extra budgetary and also demanded the 2015 appropriation of the Ministry.
The Committee also summoned the management of Aso Savings and Loans Limited over the N2 billion deposited with them by the Ministry of Power since 2013 which the Ministry said was meant for staff housing scheme.
Wilson-Jack told the Committee that the Ministry was making frantic efforts to recover the money from the bank, stressing that it has already reported them to the Central Bank of Nigeria over violation of banking regulations.
She said the Ministry wrote to the Accountant General in December 2012 seeking permission to open an account with Aso Savings and Loans Limited to address issues of staff Housing, and got approval in January 2013 when the lodgment was made.
Oke said directed the Clerk to the Committee to write to the Central Bank of Nigeria to come and throw more light on the issue, while the bank is to appear before the committee to explain the whereabouts of the money and the accrued interest.
The House Committee however deferred about 12 of the 14 queries of the Ministry, while setting up adhoc committee to liaise with the Ministry and reconcile relevant documents.
The Auditor General of the Federation had sought a refund of about N30 million it said was an extra spending by the Ministry on the World Energy Summit which took place in 2015, but the Permanent Secretary said that there was no extra budgetary spending on the summit.
She explained “two approvals were made for the World Energy Summit. One was N44.671 million for the acquisition of space and construction of pavilion. But as a result of paucity of funds, only N39.446 million was released and duly retired.
“The second approval was for N30.316 million which was approved as travel expenses. But the Minister could not attend the summit and so, the delegation was reduced which also meant that the money had to reduce.
“For that, N21.204 million was released as travel expenses and has been duly retired. This money was paid directly to all those who attended the summit. So, there was no extra payment of N30 million as contained in the Auditor General’s report”.
Also, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Police Affairs, told the Committee that the sum of N110.151 million complained about by the Auditor General could not be mopped up and transferred to the TSA because it was not available for mop up.
He said that N85 million of the money was seized through a garnishee order from the court as a result of a case involving the Nigerian Police Force while the balance was transferred to the TSA before the Ministry was scrapped in 2015.
The committee however demanded for details of case involving the police for which the garnishee order was made, a copy of the order, and a detailed bank statement on the account and when the balance was transferred to the TSA.
Source: The Nation