National Assembly indicted for “stealing billions”

The probe finds that NASS is being run in contravention of stipulated financial regulations.

An audit report has indicted the management of the National Assembly over the embezzlement of approximately N3.5 billion.

The revelations contained in the 2016 annual audit report released by the Auditor General of the Federation indicate that the fund was siphoned through numerous schemes.

The misappropriation was said to have been perpetrated via failure to retire advances, financial documentation irregularities, excess payment for goods, controversial purchases and diversion of funds.

During the audit of the accounting records maintained at the National Assembly and its agencies at the management section and under the General Services, it was revealed that capital account payment vouchers for amounts totalling N417 million (N417,312,538.79) raised for settlement of some contractors were without vital supporting documents.

This, according to the report, violated financial regulations which provide that all vouchers shall contain full particulars of each service as to enable them to be checked without reference to any other document and will invariably be supported by relevant documents.

The auditor ruled thus:

“The Clerk to the National Assembly, Mohammed Sani Omolori, should produce the supporting documents to the payment vouchers or recover the amount in question from the contractors.”

Also, during the audit of staff salary accounts, 37 payment vouchers which amounted to N67 million (N66,713,355) were observed to have been paid between January and June 2016 for items not related to personnel cost.

The report also indicates that the payees in the cashbook did not correspond with those in the bank statement.

It dubbed this irregularity a violation of financial regulations which states thus:

“Expenditure shall strictly be classified in accordance with the estimates and votes must be applied only to the purpose for which the money is provided. Expenditure incorrectly charged to a vote shall be disallowed.”

The auditor, therefore, directed that “the sum of N66,713,355.08 being irregular expenditure should be recovered from the officer who approved the payments from the personnel vote”.

It was also discovered during the review of documents of capital expenditure vote that payments totalling N116 million (N116,162,522.60) were made between April and June 2016 to some contractors for various jobs carried out, but without raising payment vouchers.

The report noted that this contravened the provisions of financial regulations which state that under no circumstance shall money be paid for services for which a voucher has not been raised.

“The Clerk to the National Assembly should produce the payment vouchers for examination,” the auditor maintained.

The audit also revealed that a total sum of N57 million deducted from various contract payments in respect of Withholding Tax and Value Added Tax (VAT) was without evidence of remittance to tax authorities.

The report revealed that the clerk of the National Assembly ignored the auditor’s demand that he produce the acknowledgement receipts from the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) for verification.

The report further revealed that the general services account of the National Assembly was depleted by about N751 million on account of “watery financial documentations” and failure of staff to retire advances.

It was revealed that N625 million was granted to the Constitution Review Committee through four payment vouchers between March and June 2016.

“These were not supported with relevant documents and details of the expenses and therefore a violation of Financial Regulation which stipulates that all payment vouchers should contain full particulars of each service, so as to enable them to be checked without reference to any other documents and will invariably be supported by relevant documents,” the auditor observed.

It was also revealed that cash advances totalling N126 million were granted to 11 members of staff through 19 payment vouchers between March and December 2016 for procurement of goods and services.

However, these advances were not retired as at the time of examination in June 2017.

The clerk was instructed to recover N126 million from the “defaulting officers in compliance with financial regulations which stipulate that accounting officers are responsible for ensuring the prompt repayment of all advances by instalments or otherwise”.

In the Senate, the report revealed that about N974 million was not accounted for as against financial regulations.

According to the report, this was mostly due to poor control in the management and accountability of public funds where members of staff of the Senate failed to retire advances worth millions of naira.

“Personal advances totalling N747,286,680 granted to staff between February and December 2016 for various procurement and services, were not retired as at the time of examination in June 2017,” the auditor said.

The auditor said that the clerk was instructed to recover the whole sum from the defaulting officers and furnish recovery particulars for verification but he has not done so.

It was also revealed that the Senate ostensibly made payments of over N100 million for taxes with no supporting documents.

“Withholding and Value Added Taxes totalling N118,625,057.48, which were purportedly remitted to the FIRS, were not acknowledged with revenue receipts. The Clerk to the National Assembly should produce the receipts from the tax authorities for verification,” it further said.

It also indicted the senate for not presenting payment vouchers for amounts totalling N109 million paid from the Capital Expenditure vote for audit examination.

The clerk has been therefore directed to produce the payment vouchers for examination, or refund the amount in question to government coffers.

The House of Representatives legislative institute was also indicted of embezzling about N1 billion.

It was revealed that Pay As You Earn (PAYE) deductions from staff salaries totalling N821.6 million was claimed to have been remitted to tax authorities with no receipts or documented evidence to show for it.

According to the auditor, this runs in contravention to Financial Regulation.

The regulation states that “deductions for WHT, VAT and PAYE shall be remitted to the Federal Inland Revenue Service at the same time the payee who is the subject of the deduction is paid.”

It was also discovered that advances granted to officers of the House of Representatives totalling N254 million for procurement of goods and services between January and December 2016 were not retired as at the time of examination in June 2017.

The report also indicted the National Institute for Legislative Studies, where N412 million was paid for 11 motor vehicles purchased at a contract sum of N375.9 million.

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