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Service Wide Votes: Senate uncovers N2.2bn fraud by Justice Ministry

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Service Wide Votes: Senate uncovers N2.2bn fraud by Justice Ministry

*Probes over 200 benefitting MDAs

Senate Committee on Public Accounts, said it has uncovered N2.2billion unaccounted expenditure collected by the Federal Ministry of Justice from 2017- 2021 from the Service Wide Votes, SWV.

This is even as the committee, chaired by Senator Mathew Urhoghide (PDP Edo South), is currently investigating over 200 agencies that benefited from Service Wide Votes, between 2017-2021 which is about N5trillion.

A Service Wide Vote, SWV, also known as the Consolidated Revenue Fund Charge is more or less the country’s contingency fund in the annual budget.

Investigation revealed that the SWV collected by the Ministry of Justice was not subjected to the scrutiny of the Office of Auditor General of the Federation, OAuGF and was not also privy to the Senate standing committee mandated to oversight the agency.

Members of the committee were surprised during investigative hearing at the weekend when it was discovered that the line item in the money collected from the Service Wide Votes in 2019 for capital project was put as “Critical Needs” according to the Authority to Incur Expenditure, AIE produced by the OAuGF.

The lawmakers were disturbed about the N650million earmarked for the “Critical Needs’ in the line item under capital expenditure.

Surprisingly, in the record of the ministry, there is nothing that revealed that N650 million was received, but the AIEs from the Office of Accountant General of the Federation revealed that N650 million was released for ‘Critical Need’ for capital expenditure in 2019.

In addition, N955million via AIEs was released to the ministry from SWV in 2017, but available record showed N549 million with a difference of N406million missing .

Service Wide Votes: Senate uncovers N2.2bn fraud by Justice Ministry

Also in 2018, the ministry claimed to have received N492 million, but the releases from the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, showed that N591million was released which showed that N99million yet to be accounted for.

In 2019, the record from the Accountant General Office showed that the ministry collected N650million under capital project with line item of ‘Critical Need’, but the ministry failed to produce record that backed up the amount.

The ministry, according to record also collected N62million for recurrent in 2020.

Finally, in 2021, N1.4 billion was released from the Office of Accountant General through AIEs for recurrent expenditure, but the ministry claimed to have received N400 million.

However, the ministry was unable to present the letters of request and approval for the money collected from Service Wide Votes.

But the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Mrs. B.E Jeddy said relevant documents would be searched and presented to the committee on November 10.

She assured the committee that the ministry would engage relevant departments that benefited from the fund and give feed back.

Speaking during the hearing, chairman of the committee, said that the fund was not audited by the Auditor General, because they are not budgetary provisions.

“It (the fund) was not audited by the Auditor General at all, they are not budgetary provision, go and tell everyone that benefited from it and give us the necessary documents,” Senator Urhoghide said.

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