BY EMMAN OVUAKPORIE
ABUJA — INDICATIONS have emerged that the House of Representatives may call for the scrapping of the Service Wide Vote, SWV, fund used by the executive to combat emergencies due to lack of accountability.
Sources said that the House took into account, the massive fraud associated with the SWV before agreeing informally to recommend its scrapping.
The House Committee on Public Accounts had uncovered financial irregularities in the disbursement of the fund to Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs, between November last year and this month.
On March 5, the committee alleged that about N16 trillion was diverted by the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Budget Office, even as Hon. Olamilekan Adeola had earlier on December 22, last year, raised an alarm that N4 trillion was spent between 2004 and 2012 by the Federal Government from the SWV without the approval of the National Assembly, in accordance with Section 80 of the 1999 Constitution.
The committee had also alleged that between 2005 and 2006, the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo spent N250 million on the feeding of former President of Liberia, Charles Taylor and his family, who were then on an asylum in the country.
Olamilekan said the money was spent illegally without parliamentary approval, adding that the trend had continued from Obasanjo’s regime.
Chairman, House Committee on Public Accounts, Rep Solomon Olamilekan, All Progressives Congress, APC, Lagos had also, at different interactive sessions with MDAs, called for the scrapping of the fund which he described as “a slosh account.”
Olamilekan explained that “most of the expenditures to which the SWV releases were deployed are routine in nature and did not qualify for emergency funding.
“For instance, between 2004 and 2012, a total of N1.20 billion was spent on publicity and publication of various government programmes.
“Between 2004 and 2005, another N14. 57 billion was also released from the SWV for the payment of judgement debts against the Federal Government.
“The office of the Accountant-General of the Federation, Budget Office and the Ministry of Finance released to their various offices a total of N2. 1billion to a few auditors as audit fees and in 2011 alone, the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation paid out N809,358,504 as audit fees to some external auditors carrying out audit of the Federal Government financial activities instead of the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation.”
He had also alleged that over N160 million was released for the Budget and Accountant General’s offices without explanations on what the money was used for.
Olanipekun said: “The expenditure of N162 million from the 2011 SWV releases tagged, ‘Closing Accounts’ was incurred jointly by the Office of the Accountant-General and the Budget Office of the Federation.
“An expenditure of N1,059,177,589.31 ($6,619,859.93 at the rate of $1 to N160) in 2010 and 2011 was said to be for payment of outstanding tax on Nigeria House in New York.
“Such releases were mainly used to finance recurrent expenses not targeted at critical and strategic sectors of the economy and the releases were random and did not follow any clear pattern.
“The SWV had become an alternative budget which government prefers to patronise than the annual budget, leading to poor implementation of such budgets as approved by the National Assembly.
“Successive governments have from 2004 to 2012, spent a whopping N4.17 trillion as against N1.8trillion approved by the National Assembly as SWV component of the budgets of those years, translating to N2.27trillion extra budgetary spending or 220 per cent above the SWV as approved in the budget for the period. Such extra-budgetary expenditures constitute a breach of Section 81 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and an illegality.”
In most cases, the heads of the agencies also, did not have documentary evidence on how the money allocated to them was disbursed.
The committee also raised questions over various sums of money totalling N5.1 billion said to have been used to finance the activities of Presidential Advisory Committee, PAC, led by Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (rtd) in 2010.