The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to direct the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, and appropriate anti-corruption agencies to investigate the reported spending of over N880 billion of public funds by 367 ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) in 2018 without appropriation.
SERAP added that such investigation should establish whether public funds have been mismanaged, diverted or stolen.
It said anyone suspected to be responsible should face prosecution as appropriate, if there is sufficient admissible evidence, and any misappropriated public funds should be fully recovered.
In the open letter dated August 7, 2021 and signed by SERAP’s deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said: “These damning revelations suggest a grave violation of the public trust, the Nigerian constitution of 1999 (as amended), and international human rights and anti-corruption standards. Spending of public funds without appropriation will create opportunities for corruption.”
According to SERAP, “Investigating and prosecuting anyone who spent public funds without appropriation and authorisation will send a powerful message that this illegal and unconstitutional practice will not be tolerated under your watch.”
“Complying with constitutional requirements and international standards on spending of public funds would ensure effective and efficient management of public resources, and put the country’s wealth and resources to work for the common good of all Nigerians. This in turn would reduce the growing levels of borrowing and public debts.
“We would be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within 14 days of the receipt and publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel your government to comply with our request in the public interest.
“According to part 2 of the 2018 annual audited report by the Auditor-General of the Federation, N880,894,733,084.811 was spent by 367 MDAs without appropriation. 14 MDAs reportedly spent N162,924,630,539.20 without appropriation. Similarly, 100 MDAs spent N229,136,261,325.73 on ‘social benefits’ without appropriation.
“Furthermore, 151 MDAs exceeded their 2018 overhead appropriation by N476,625,502,048.87 without any evidence of supplementary appropriation or approved virement to support the extra-budgetary spending. 102 MDAs also reportedly spent N12,208,339,171.01 on subsidies without budgetary provisions. The Auditor-General is concerned that the money may have been misappropriated.”