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How Justice Ministry spent N35.7m on Virtual Conference-Auditor General

The Auditor General of the Federation, Aghughu Adolphus has revealed that the Federal Ministry of Justice in 2019 spent N30 million to host a virtual conference that requires to physical presence and even paid different amounts of money to officers of other agents of government who should have been catered for by their own agencies.

The Office of the Auditor General of the Federation also indicted the Federal Justice Ministry over misapplication of N35.7 million, Capital Development Funds, payment of N53.7 million without supporting documents, and failure to present for auditing purposes how N23 million was spent.

On the first issue, the Auditor General indicted the Justice Ministry for raising 12 payments totalling N35,776,700.00 in December 2019 for a virtual conference. “One out of the twelve (12) vouchers with No. Cap/014/19 dated 24/4/19 amounting to 30,000,000.00 (Thirty million naira), was raised as cash advance to an officer of the Ministry.The retirement particulars of the cash advance of 30,000,000.00 (Thirty million naira) revealed the conference was a virtual meeting, even in the 2019 financial year”.

The remaining amount, according to the Auditor General’s report, was raised to cover Air-Tickets, Boot Camp Registration, Servicing of Monthly Meetings, Workshop Fees, and Conferences.

Moreover, the report stated: “The officers that attended the program were from South-South States and from different agencies and commands, their offices should have catered for their logistics and other benefits instead of the Ministry.

The receipts for retirement from hotels were altered at the date columns such as the Le Meridien Hotel and Golf Resort in Uyo for 13,240,000.00, Ogbolosing Transport Company Nig. Ltd. for car hiring amounting to N160,000.00 with no destinations and MC Print Ventures for 60,000.00 which raised doubts as to the authenticity of the retirement particulars.

The sum of 11,960,000.00 was paid to one hundred and eighty four (184) officers from the South-South State Commands (186 x 20,000 = 3,680,000.00 as transportation subsidy) plus (186 x 45,000 = 8,280,000.00 as

accommodation subsidy, i.e 15,000 per night for three nights each) contravened extant rules on DTAs of public officers in the civil service, and the above payments were made as if all the officers are on the same grade levels to collect the same amounts in terms of distance and DTAs”.

All these are contained in the Annual Report to the National Assembly titled: AUDITOR-GENERAL FOR THE FEDERATION’S ANNUAL REPORT ON NON COMPLIANCE/INTERNAL CONTROL WEAKNESSES ISSUES IN MINISTRIES, DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES (MDAs) OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OF NIGERIA FOR THE YEAR ENDED 31 DECEMBER, 2019.

The full report on the Federal Ministry of Justice is stated below:

FEDERAL MINISTRY OF JUSTICE

At the Federal Ministry of Justice, the following observations were made:

ISSUE 1: 

MISAPPLICATION OF CAPITAL DEVELOPMENT FUNDS 

(= 35,776,700.00)

Paragraph 316 (iii) & (iv) of the Financial Regulations states “Virement from one Head of Account in the Recurrent Expenditure estimates to another Head of account in Capital Expenditure estimates shall not be allowed and vice versa…All applications for virement shall be collated by the Minister of Finance and submitted to National Assembly for approval before virement warrant shall be issued.”

Audit observed that:

i.Twelve(12) payments totaling 35,776,700.00 (Thirty five million, seven hundred and seventy six thousand, seven hundred naira) were made in December 2019 to Officers of the Ministry from the capital vote.

ii.The above payments were for Air-Tickets, Boot Camp Registration, Servicing of Monthly Meetings, Workshop Fees, and Conferences.

iii.One (1) out of the twelve (12) vouchers with No. Cap/014/19 dated 24/4/19 amounting to 30,000,000.00 (Thirty million naira), was raised as cash advance to an officer of the Ministry.

iv.The retirement particulars of the cash advance of 30,000,000.00 (Thirty million naira) revealed the conference was a virtual meeting, even in the 2019 financial year.

v.The officers that attended the program were from South-South States and from different agencies and commands, their offices should have catered for their logistics and other benefits instead of the Ministry.

vi.The receipts for retirement from hotels were altered at the date columns such as the Le Meridien Hotel and Golf Resort in Uyo for 13,240,000.00, Ogbolosing Transport Company Nig. Ltd. for car hiring amounting to N160,000.00 with no destinations and MC Print Ventures for 60,000.00 which raised doubts as to the authenticity of the retirement particulars.

vii.The sum of 11,960,000.00 was paid to one hundred and eighty four (184) officers from the South-South State Commands (186 x 20,000 = 3,680,000.00 as transportation subsidy) plus (186 x 45,000 = 8,280,000.00 as accommodation subsidy, i.e 15,000 per night for three nights each) contravened extant rules on DTAs of public officers in the civil service, and

viii.The above payments were made as if all the officers are on the same grade levels to collect same amounts in terms of distance and DTAs

The above anomalies could be attributed to weaknesses in the internal control system at the Federal Ministry of Justice.

Risks

  1. Misapplication of funds.
  2. Diversion of public funds.

Management’s Response

All expenditures incurred were captured in the 2019 Capital Appropriation Bill of the Ministry and they were duly approved as contained in the Appropriation Acts for the year under consideration.

Recommendations

The Solicitor-General and Permanent Secretary is requested to:

  1. Furnish reasons for payment of allowances for conference that was held virtually and payment to officers of another agencies
  2. Account for the sum of 35,776,700.00 (Thirty five million, seven hundred and seventy six thousand, seven hundred naira) transferred from capital vote to finance overhead expenditure.

iii. Recover the sum of 30,000,000.00 (Thirty million naira) paid as cash advance as the retirement documents are flawed with irregularities, and

  1. Otherwise, sanction within Financial Regulation 3106 on irregular payment should apply.

ISSUE 2: PAYMENT WITHOUT SUPPORTING DOCUMENTS (=53,797,299.50)

Paragraph 603(i) of the Financial Regulations states “All vouchers shall contain full particulars of each service, such as dates, numbers, quantities, distances and rates, so as to enable them to be checked without reference to any other documents and will invariably be supported by relevant documents such as local purchase orders, invoices, special letters of authority, time sheets. etc.”

Audit observed that:

Nine (9) payment vouchers amounting to 53,797,299.50 (Fifty three million, seven hundred and ninety seven thousand, two hundred and ninety nine naira, fifty kobo) for works and procurement were raised in 2019 and paid to contractors, and

  1. Relevant supporting documents such as approvals, invoices/receipts, letter of, Store Receipt Voucher (SRV), Store Issue Voucher (SIV), project files were not presented for examination.

The above anomalies could be attributed to weaknesses in the internal control system at the Federal Ministry of Justice.

Risks

  1. Diversion of public funds.
  2. Difficulty in funding budget. 

Management’s Response

At that period of award and execution, the Ministry was under siege of possible attack by the protesters while there was an urgent need for an award and execution of those contracts in order to salvage lives and properties in public interest. We are not unaware of the facts that those contracts were supposed to go through the Procurement Planning Committee in compliance with the due process procedures.

Recommendations

The Solicitor-General and Permanent Secretary is requested to:

  1. Provide reasons why items procured did not have supporting documents as required by extant regulations.
  2. Account for 53,797,299.50 (Fifty three million, seven hundred and ninety seven thousand, two hundred and ninety nine naira, fifty kobo) used to procure items without relevant supporting documents

iii. Recover and remit the sum of 53,797,299.50 to the Treasury.

  1. Forward evidence of remittance to the Public Accounts Committees of the National Assembly, and
  1. Otherwise, apply sanctions relating to irregular payment specified in paragraph 3106 of the Financial Regulations.

ISSUE 3: OUTSTANDING PAYMENT VOUCHERS (= 23,581,944.20)

Paragraph 601 of the Financial Regulations states “All payment entries in the cash book/accounts shall be vouched for on one of the prescribed treasury forms. Vouchers shall be made out in favour of the person or persons to whom the money is usually due. Under no circumstances shall a cheque be raised, or cash paid for services for which a voucher has not been raised.”

Audit observed that fourteen (14) payment vouchers amounting to 23,581,944.20 (Twenty three million, five hundred and eighty one thousand, nine hundred and forty four naira, twenty kobo) paid between July to December 2019 were not presented for audit examination.

The above anomaly could be attributed to weaknesses in the internal control system at the Federal Ministry of Justice.

Risks

  1. Misappropriation of funds.
  2. Payment for unapproved expenditure.

Management’s Response

The violation of the Financial Regulations 629 as stated was not deliberate, but due to exigencies of work then that made it difficult for us to access those payment vouchers for presentation to the auditors as requested.

Recommendations

The Solicitor-General and Permanent Secretary is requested to:

  1. Furnish reasons why 14 payment vouchers were not produced for examinations.
  2. Account for 23,581,944.20 (Twenty three million, five hundred and eighty one thousand, nine hundred and forty four naira, twenty kobo)

iii. Recover and remit the sum of 23,581,944.20.

  1. Forward evidence of remittance to the Public Accounts Committees of the National Assembly, and
  1. Otherwise, apply sanctions relating to irregular payment and gross misconduct specified in paragraphs 3106 and 3129 of the Financial Regulations respectively.

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