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COVID-19: Disbursement of ₦173b to MDAs: HEDA sues Nigeria’s Accountant-General, demands details

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A Federal high Court in Abuja has granted a major relief to Nigeria’s foremost anti-corruption concern — Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA Resource Centre) — by compelling the Accountant-General of the Federation to release details of the N173 billion disbursed to the various Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) in the wake of COVID-19 in 2020.

The ministries, parastatals including security agencies, educational institutes and other contractors are alleged to have received some N173 billion from federal purse in the first half of 2020 without accountable documentation.

HEDA Resource Centre had filed a suit at the Federal High Court seeking the order of mandamus to compel the Accountant-General of the Federation to release details of the expenditure up to May 29, 2020.

Nigeria remains at the lowest rank of Transparency International (TI) rating, prompting the country’s continuous decline in global corruption rating.

HEDA said the infraction, if it proven, calls to question the AG’s professionalism and his association or membership of local and international accounting organizations and bodies, citing Section 6 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Order 26, Rule 6 of the Federal High Court as the basis for the judges’ powers.

HEDA submitted as exhibit the publication in the respect of Dataphyte consortium titled “173 Billion payments without Description Defeats Nigeria’s Open Government Initiative”.

According to HEDA’s Chairman, Mr Olanrewaju Suraju, the N173b payment raises concern about how government parastatals expend public funds and that his group seeks details to determine if the funds were judiciously utilized and in public interest.

The Dataphyte analysis of data on the open Treasury Portal had indicated that the whopping sum of ₦173billion worth 1,353 payments was made to various parastatals between January 2020 and April 2020 without descriptions.

HEDA said it made several requests in writing asking the AG to release the expenditure details without response, thereby prompting the legal redress.

The group insisted that it is in the public interest that the details were released.

“There are very strong indications that the office of the Accountant General of the Federation has continued to neglect proper description of payments issued to contractors and government agencies, expressing fear that the trend may defeat transparency and accountability, key elements necessary for good governance.

“A breakdown of the figures showed that the zero description payments in January and February were ₦5.16 billion and ₦6.76 billion respectively. In March and April 2020, the FG also paid ₦85.2 billion and ₦15.22 billion without description.

“The way these payments were made suggest unprofessional accounting procedures that will undermine transparency,” Suraju said in a statement made available to Persecondnews.

Analysts contend that most of the payments were made to contractors under the National Rural Electrification Agency, National Directorate of Employment, (NDE), Nigerian Navy, Federal Fire Service, Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports development, National Inland Waterways Authority.

Other end users were Nigerian Airforce, Nigerian Defence Academy, Nigerian Correctional Service, and Federal Minstry of Niger-Delta.

In earlier report, Dataphyte said between January and November 2019, ambiguous payments were also made. The values of the questionable transactions were set at ₦510.2 billion representing 16 percent of the total payments done by the government in the same period.

The group said the description makes it difficult to establish an accountable expenditure. The case has been assigned to Court 3, Federal High Court, Abuja.

 

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