Teddy Oscar, Abuja
The House of Representatives’ committee on Public Accounts has queried the Budget Office to explain the rationale behind the expenditure of more than N16 trillion from Service Wide Vote (SWV) administered by the President through the minister of finance between 2004 and 2013.
This is even as the office of the Auditor General of the Federation has also issued eight queries to the Budget Office between 2010 and 2011 on the application of the SWV.
Giving the directive on Wednesday when Dr. Bright Okogun, director general of Budget Office, appeared before his committee, Hon. Adeola Solomon Olamilekan, chairman, said that the committee was particularly concerned about the various sums totalling N5.1 billion allegedly expended out of which N1.28 billion was spent on the activities of the Presidential Advisory Committee (PAC) led by Gen. Theophilus Danjuma, former defence minister, in 2010.
“We found out that over 70 percent of this money (N1.28 billion) was spent on reservation on accommodation at the Transcorp Hilton,” Olamilekan added.
Olamilekan said that the management of Transcorp Hilton must appear before the committee with evidence of payment of the said amount to convince the House that the money was actually utilised for the purpose it was meant for.
“We are inviting Transcorp Hilton to appear and clarify how much was spent on hotel reservation by the Presidential Advisory Committee (PAC). Also, the office of Secretary to the Government of the Federation that supervised the activities of PAC would have to testify,” he said.
The committee also directed that the management of Transorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja would furnish it with details of the transaction involving the alleged expenditure of over N700 million spent on hotel reservation at the hotel during the existence of the committee.
Olamilekan lamented that the existence of SWV encourages fraud explaining that a “budget within a budget run by the Budget Office, whose return is often 100 per cent” performance at the end of any fiscal year.
In his response, Okogu, explained that his office only gets instruction to release funds to ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of the government.
“The SWV is basically any expenditure not anticipated at the time the budget was made,” he said, adding that the PAC’s expenditure, which is one of the issues upon which he was queried, is not under his purview.
He explained that PAC was an ad-hoc committee, which has since folded up, that was run by the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF).
“I don’t know how much they spent. My office has submitted to your committee a detailed document on the issue,” he said.
He was consequently told to write officially to the committee explaining that PAC was supervised by the SGF’s office; hence only the SGF can provide answers to its stewardship.
Other issues that were scrutinized, under the SWV, by the committee were: N1 billion expended by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on printing of ballot papers by a South African firm, N5.7 billion released to the National Hajj Commission (NAHCOM), N65 million spent by the minister of justice on the ministry’s participation at the 3rd Conference of State Parties to the United Nations and 5 percent Redemption Fund meant for the defraying of the cost of pension for Federal Government workers.