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Reps to ministers: You can’t spend public funds without accountability

Summon Ameachi, Siriki, others

By Levinus Nwabughiogu

ABUJA—The House of Representatives, yesterday, told ministers and other public officials working with the Executive arm of government that they were subject to scrutiny at all times on how budgetary allocations to their offices were used.

The lawmakers also said it would be an illegality, which attracts a certain jail term, for any minister to go ahead and spend money not appropriated by the Legislature.

They, therefore, decided that henceforth, executive official that fails to give a comprehensive account of allocations made to them would not have their 2019 budgets approved by the House.

House of Representatives

Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Aviation, Nkiru Onyejiocha, handed down the warning at a public hearing meant to scrutinise chief executives of four agencies on how they spent the money appropriated to them.

The officials included Directors-General of Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria, FAAN; Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA; Accident Investigation Bureau, AIB, and Nigeria Meteorological Agency, NiMet.

Angry that none of the invited chief executives honoured the invitation sent to them to appear and defend their budget performances of the last 18 months, the committee, which refused to take presentations from their representatives, ruled that Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, and his Aviation counterpart, Hadi Sirika, must appear before the lawmakers tomorrow.

While the Managing Director of FAAN was reported to have a scheduled meeting with the Ministry of Transportion today (yesterday), his NCAA counterpart was, however, said to have travelled outside the country on medical leave, with the acting head said to be in Lagos.

The same reason was also given for the absence of Commissioner of  Accident  Investigation Bureau, AIB.

Chairman of the committee, Onyejiocha, said: “The man is in Nigeria and attending to some foreigners in his office. My brother, I take exceptions to the fact that the AIB commissioner is in Nigeria and he’s attending to foreigners and has prioritised that meeting over and above a scheduled session with this committee.

“Now we have this attitude that leads to lack of accountability in budget implementation, because as we speak, we don’t know how much has been released to them, how much has been spent and what it was spent to achieve.

‘’In less than two days, they will tell us to accept their 2019 budget proposal and approve same, we can’t take that from anybody henceforth.

“If we don’t appropriate, you can’t spend, and if you spend without our appropriation, you go to jail. The National Assembly has been slighted to the barest minimum and the ministries and agencies are doing same.

“The minister’s own is even worse because he always finds reasons not to honour our invitation and we are done condoning that.

“Whoever failed to defend their 2018 budget performance will not get a budget in 2019 and we will make sure that those who deliberately avoid our oversight will have no appropriation for next year.

“You can’t keep spending public funds as you want without accountability to the people whose money you’re spending, and as representatives of the people, we are here to tell you that is completely unacceptable”.

The committee, however, took presentations from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Technology, NCAT, Zaria, Kaduna State, which was represented by the training manager of the school, Captain Hassan Abdulrahman Jimoh.

He was eventually asked to update his documents regarding a $1m simulator equipment procurement contract and report back to the committee this morning, before the resumed hearing.

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Lawmakers also demanded explanations on the N974million budgeted for fencing and another N49m for water treatment facility at the school.

Surprised that such huge amount was said to have been expended, the lawmakers wondered if the school perimeter fencing covered the entire Kaduna State and whether it was establishing a water bottling company to have spent those amounts.

The hearing continues today.

 


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