The Ministry of Justice has been accused of committing financial infractions after disbursing N10.4 billion without following due process. Officials of the ministry were also said to have spent N32.5 million on foreign travels without approval, a new report by auditors from the Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation disclosed.
The N10.4 billion was said to have been released for judgement debt. It means money that a court of law orders the losing party to pay to the winning party. The parties in the case may either be an individual, a family, a company, an institution or a government. The Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami said that about N150 billion remained unpaid.
No control over disbursement: The Ministry has been disbursing funds without a committee saddled with the responsibility of managing the disbursement of judgement debt. The last committee was dissolved in 2013.
According to the auditor, the Ministry of Justice disbursed N10.4 billion in 2017 without the committee on ground. The report by the Auditors said public funds could be lost if there isn’t control over the disbursement.
“Examination of the budget of the Federal Ministry of Justice revealed that the sum of N460.95m was appropriated for payment of judgment debts for 2016 and N10bn appropriated for 2017, totalling N10.46 billion.
“Further examination revealed that the committee saddled with the responsibility of managing the fund was dissolved after the 2013 financial year and is yet to be reconstituted after the 2016 and 2017 appropriations.
“However, the ministry has been disbursing this sum without a committee in place. Lack of control could lead to loss of public funds.”
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The Auditor-General for the Federation, Anthony Ayine recommended that, as required by law, the Solicitor-General of the Federation and permanent secretary in the Ministry of Justice should immediately set up the committee.
Unapproved foreign travel funds: It was also stated in a Punch report that officers were paid estacodes and return air tickets, worth N32.35 million, between March and September 2017 without approval. According to the audit, the Ministry’s inability to attach evidence of approval from the Head of Service (in the case of the civil servants) and approvals from the President (in case of a minister) was a violation of the provision of the circular HCSF/CSO/HRM/POL.1420/1 dated January 22, 2015, and HCS/PS/SPSO/244/1/26 of July 25 2016, respectively.
“Incurring expenditures without necessary approvals could lead to loss of public funds. The Solicitor-General of the Federation and permanent secretary is requested to recover the sum of N32.35m and pay to Consolidated Revenue Fund and evidence of recovery forwarded for my confirmation,” Ayine said.
Also, a total of 68 payment vouchers amounting to N71,19 billion which was paid between March and August 2017 were not produced for audit in violation of section 85(2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) and Financial Regulation 108, and according to Ayine.
“I cannot certify the payments a legitimate charge against public funds. There may be risk of misappropriation and misapplication of funds,” he added in the report.