Senate moves against reckless use of N199.3bn ecological funds

THE PUNCH Newspaper

From pensions and fuel subsidy scams, the Senate has shifted its focus to the reckless spending of ecological funds by the Presidency.

Consequently, the Senate Public Accounts Committee has ordered the Ministry of Finance to submit, without delay, details of government’s disbursements from Stabilisation, Ecological, and Natural Resources accounts.

These accounts are domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria.

It was gathered that the committee’s directive to the ministry was based on information available to it on various abuse of the funds by bureaucrats, political authorities, including state governors.

It was learnt that some of the expenditure were outside the objectives for which the funds were established, while some states that got releases did not properly utilise them.

The Deputy Leader of the Senate, and a member of the PAC, Senator Abdul Ningi, said the Senate was concerned in particular, about the handling of the Ecological Funds.

A total of N199.329bn had accrued to the fund as at March 16, 2009, according to a document the Ecological Fund Office submitted to the House of Representatives in the last legislative dispensation.

The Reps Public Accounts Committee, which received the report, could not address sundry abuses, which included “N200m payment to the Presidential Research and Communication Unit.”

The Ecological Fund Office had claimed that the money was a loan given in 2002, under ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo’s presidency.

But as at 2009, its record showed that the “N200m loan” had not been repaid.

Other curious payments include N200m to Ogun State Government to build a memorial monument for victims of the 2006 Bellview plane crash, N750m down town mall in Abuja, N7.464bn loan to the Ministry of Defence for an Air Force project.

Also, N11, 746,427,355, N7.940bn, N6.2bn were “released for the execution of various ecological projects in some states of the Federation.”

The affected states were not stated, just as N10m was used to build an abattoir in Niger State.

The Senate had earlier expressed concern on the floor during a debate on the ecological disasters in some parts of the country.

Its PAC chairman, Senator Ahmed Lawan, told SUNDAY PUNCH that after five months of a request for the details of the utilisation of these accounts, the Ministry of Finance had failed to respond.

Although officials of the Ministry of Finance had claimed that it was the responsibility of the Office of the Accountant General to produce the report, the information on the request got to the ministry very late.

Lawan said, “We want to know how these accounts have been utilised and who authorised the utilisation.

“No ministry should take this committee for granted. The committee is advising the ministry of Finance to respect the directives of the committee by producing the documents.”

He also rejected claims that it was the responsibility of the Accountant-General to produce the documents.

He said, “We will like to determine how the ecological funds are disbursed and who authorised the disbursements. We are also requesting the ministry to furnish the committee with details of the administration of the Natural Resources Development Fund, as well as other dedicated accounts.

“We need to see the accruals, receipts and disbursements.”

Senator Umar Dahiru, in his reaction to the reluctance of the agencies to cooperate with the committee, said the ministry should set the pace in encouraging transparency in governance by producing clear financial records.


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