By Ademola Akanni, Abuja
The present Minister of Water Resources, Engineer Sulaiman Adamu has a lot of work to do explaining how money up to N1 billion was spent by the Ministry and some its agencies recklessly without any care for documentation, reports The Gazelle News.com.
Although the financial recklessness took place for the 2017 financial year, the present Minister would have to explain to Nigerians what efforts have been made to bring the culprits to book.
In the Annual Audit Report for the Ministry for 2017 presented by the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation, a lot of financial misappropriation was discovered on the Ministry and some of its agencies.
It was discovered that the Ministry itself spent a total of N343.957 million without documents to show what the money was spent on. Apart from this, the Ministry also spent a total of N14.993 million as cash advance to staff to buy store items and for services without documents.
The Gazelle News.com also discovered from the report that the Federal College of Freshwater Fisheries Technology, New Bussa, Niger State, spent N33.652 million to train 170 unemployed youths and women between 10 and 11 November, 2016. No document backed up this expenditure and there were no names and numbers of the beneficiaries.
Equally, the Lower Benue River Basin Development Authority, Markurdi, would have a lot of explanation to make on how it spent N42.277 million on non-existing project monitoring. The Audit Report feared the money must have been diverted because there was no document to back up the money spent.
The National Water Resources Institute, Kaduna is not left out in the spending spree. The agency on 4 May, 2017 paid N84.401 million to a contractor as 10% for construction of a 2-story building for UNESCO. Investigation revealed that there was no existing contract between the Institute and the contractor while there was also no document on how the money was spent.
The Audit Report also Indicted the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency which paid N24.8 million to a staff in September 2016 to produce the 2016 Annual Flood Outlook (AFO). Neither was there a document to back up the spending nor was there any evidence of service rendered. The same agency also in the same month and year paid N31.439 million to another staff to organise sensitisation workshop on 2016 flood prediction and prevention, this was also not documented.
The Gazelle News.com reports further that the Cross River Basin Development Authority, Calabar paid N10.387 million for a contract for the construction of the link road between Cross River and Ebonyi states without documents. The same agency spent N30.616 million for erosion control works at Nguzu without documents backing up the spending.
In the same vein, the Gurara Water Management Authority, Utako, Abuja on its part, failed to remit N27. 449 million deducted from contractors as withholding tax and Value Added Tax (VAT) contrary to the Financial Regulation 234. The same agency paid N63.075 million to contractors without documents.
The Lake Chad Research Institute, Maiduguri, the Audit Report discovered, was not able to account for two Prado Jeeps bought in 2013 and 2014. One of the Jeeps has a registration number 45KOIFG while the other was not registered, no reason was given for this. The same Agency was not able to account for a Toyota Hiace bus with registration number 45KO3FG.
The Hadeija-Jamare River Basin Development Authority, Kano similarly spent N204.893 million without any document to back up the spending.
The Nigeria Institute for Oil Palm Research, Benin was not left out. It spent N210.921 million in 2016 without documents and repeated same thing in 2017 spending N30.010 million without any document backing up the spending.
The National Agricultural Extension and Research Liason Services, Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria paid N33.425 million to a contractor in 2017 for the National Extension Awareness Training and Agricultural Extension Research. There was no evidence that the contract was executed. The same agency paid N60.435 million as cash advance to a staff to buy store items without due process.
The National Institute for Oceanography and Marine Research, Victoria Island, Lagos spent N18.022 million to buy store items in 2017 without evidence of the items being bought and without any document to back up the spending of the money released.
Thus, in order to know how the Ministry had responded to all these financial reckleness and spending sprees of the ministry and its agencies, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), a human rights group, has sent a Freedom of Information request to the Minister for update on the matter.
In the letter dated Saturday, 27 February, 2021, and signed by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, SERAP sought to know the outcome of the financial querried issued by fhd Office of the Accountant General of the Federation and actions taken by the Ministry to address the matter.
As at the time of writing this report, The Gazelle News.com can report that the Ministry has not responded to the letter.