Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, has urged the Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, and Speaker of House of Representatives, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila to probe fresh allegations of missing N4.1 billion of public money budgeted for the National Assembly as documented in the 2016 audited report by the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation.
In the letter dated May 15, 2021 and signed by SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole stated that the ellegations were not part of the disclosure by the Auditor-General in other audited reports that N4.4 billion of National Assembly money was missing, misappropriated, diverted or stolen.
According to SERAP: “As part of its legislative and oversight functions, the National Assembly has a key role to play in the fight against corruption in the country. But little can be achieved by the legislative body in the anti-corruption fight if the leadership and members do not first confront the spectre of alleged corruption and mismanagement within their ranks.”
SERAP also urged Lawan and Gbajabiamila, “to identify the lawmakers and staff members suspected to be involved, and hand them over to appropriate anti-corruption agencies to face prosecution, if there is sufficient admissible evidence, and to ensure full recovery of any missing public funds.”
The letter, read in part: “Ensuring the effective investigation of these fresh allegations, and full recovery of any missing public funds would strengthen the country’s accountability framework, and show that the National Assembly can discharge its constitutional responsibility of amplifying the voices of Nigerians. It will also show that the body is acting in the best interest of the people.
“SERAP is concerned that allegations of corruption continue to undermine economic development, violate social justice, and destroy trust in economic, social, and political institutions. Nigerians bear the heavy economic and social costs of corruption. The National Assembly therefore has a responsibility to curb it.
“According to the Auditor-General Report for 2016, N4,144,706,602.68 of National Assembly money is missing, diverted or stolen. The National Assembly paid some contractors N417,312,538.79 without any documents. The Auditor-General wants the Clerk to the National Assembly to ‘recover the amount in question from the contractors.
“The National Assembly reportedly spent N625,000,000.00 through its Constitution Review Committee between March and June 2016 but without any document. The Auditor-General wants the Clerk to the National Assembly to ‘recover the amount from the Committee and furnish evidence of recovery for verification.
“The National Assembly also reportedly spent N66,713,355.08 as ‘personnel cost’ but ‘the payees in the Cashbook did not correspond with those in the Bank Statement’. The Auditor-General wants ‘the irregular expenditure recovered from the officer who approved the payments,” among others.
SERAP, however, threatened to sue NASS if it fails to implement the proposed recommendations, within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of the letter.
“If we have not heard from you by then as to the steps being taken in this direction, SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel the leadership of the NASS to implement these recommendations in the public interest, and to promote transparency and accountability in the National Assembly,”
“Addressing the allegations would improve public confidence and trust in the ability of the National Assembly to exercise its constitutional and oversight responsibilities, and to adhere to the highest standards of integrity,” SERAP stated.
The letter was copied to Mr Abukabar Malami, SAN, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice; Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, Chairman, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC); Mr Abdulrasheed Bawa, Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC); and chairmen of the Public Accounts Committees of the National Assembly.