31 January 2013

Nigeria: House Tasks Budget Office, OAGF On Ecological Funds

The House of Representatives Committee on Environment Wednesday charged the Budget Office and the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation to separate the Ecological Funds from the Federation Account to ensure transparency and judicious usage of the funds by the various tiers of government.

It also ordered that the allocation of the funds to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) which is on first line charge from the Federation Account should be released on a monthly basis as opposed to the present system of quarterly payments.

The directives came just as the committee raised questions over the alleged shortfall of N302 billion in the Ecological Funds and accused the Federal Government of violating the Financial Act 2006 by using Decree 36 of 1984 as the basis of distribution of the funds.

Chairman of the Environment Committee, Hon. Uche Ekwunife (APGA/Anambra), gave the charge at an investigative hearing to determine the effectiveness and efficiency in the management of the Ecological Funds.

Ekwunife said there have been cases where the funds were converted to loans and deployed to projects not related to ecological issues.

She noted that the one per cent used by the Accountant General for the computation of inflows from January 2004 to June 2012 was contrary to the two per cent specified in the Federation Accounts Act 2004.

This, she said, had resulted in a shortfall of N302.3 billion.

Ekwunife also queried the illegal transfer of N93.7 billion in 2009 from the Ecological Funds to the Consolidated Revenue Fund to fund the acceleration of capital budget advances to states and local government to meet revenue shortfalls and third quarter Developmental Fund Warrant.

According to her, there were also other illegal deductions amounting to N20.1 billion which were made between January 2003 and December 2011 for debt servicing.

She alleged that all these deductions were made without the approval of the National Assembly.

Director General, Budget Office, Mr. Bright Okogu, has, however, explained that the monies in question were actually spent on projects.

Okogwu said contrary to the perception in some quarters, the funds were not being kept in any private account.

He said the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and Accountant General's Office were both directly involved in the deductions from the Ecological Funds.

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