Lagos Assembly Probe Indicts Ministries, Agencies

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The Lagos State House of Assembly has found some government ministries, departments and agencies guilty of recklessness and abuse of rules in their official and financial activities.

Some of the ministries indicted by the Public Accounts (State) Committee of the House after their activities for 2010 were probed include Education, Information, Finance, Lands Bureau, Physical Planning and Urban Development.

Others are the Ministry of Economic Planning and Budget, Home Affairs and Culture, Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs as well as Rural Development.

Some of the other agencies and departments indicted in the report which was exclusively made available to P.M.NEWS include the Motor Vehicle Administration Agency (MVAA), the Lagos State Water Corporation, Office of Infrastructure, the Lagos State Urban Renewal Authority (LASURA), and Local Government Service Commission.

The others include the Public Service Office, the Health Service Commission, the state Market Development, Internal Revenue Service (LIRS), the state Technical and Vocational Education Board, Water Corporation, the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA), the state Scholarship Board and a host of others.

The Committee which also made some recommendations that have been approved by the entire House, said in some circumstances; it discovered that some government projects were abandoned after funds had been disbursed for their execution.

In some other cases, also, the documented spending and revenue generated  did not tally with the discovery of the Committee.

For instance, in the state Ministry of Finance, the audit discovered a difference of N22, 132, 809. 15 in the returns made by the Land Registry Company (LRC) Ltd and First Trustees against the Year 2010 approved estimate of N3.5 billion for Land Use Charge.

The Committee further said all efforts by the office of the state Auditor-General to know why the difference existed had been frustrated by those concerned in the Land Registry Company.

In the Lands Bureau, the Committee said audit examination revealed that five payment vouchers totalling N1, 492, 000 disbursed to various beneficiaries were not accounted for as relevant supporting documents were not attached to the vouchers raised.

The Committee further alleged that documents backing up the transactions could not be provided and that this is contrary to the financial regulations of the state.

While the report stated that in the Ministry of Education it was discovered that 40 payment vouchers amounting to N115, 471, 148.77 were confirmed paid but not duly recorded, it also discovered that the rules were abused in the Ministry of Economic Planning and Budget.

Explaining its findings in the Ministry, the Committee said: “the bulk procurements of stationery, consumables and office equipment for the period under review were not taken on ledger charge; neither did the numerous departments that made the procurements maintain any record to transparently account for these items.”

It said as a result, it was difficult for the auditors to ascertain if the items were indeed procured.

In the Ministry of Local Government, it was discovered that two payment vouchers amounting to N14, 993, 400 were without relevant documents like receipts, bills and invoices.

This is contrary to the state financial regulations as the Committee said it was difficult to accept that the amount could be charged against public funds.

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In the Ministry of Education, 40 payment vouchers amounting to N115, 471, 148.77 were confirmed duly paid and recorded but were not made available for audit.

On the state Water Corporation, the Committee said: “audit observed that the sum of N78, 738, 004.62 being statutory deductions of five per cent Withholding Tax and one per cent compulsory levy deducted from 195 local purchase order was raised and paid during the year under review but was not remitted to the appropriate quarters in violation of the provisions of the Tax Laws and financial regulations.”

The Committee also found an outstanding debt of N49, 559, 926.19 at the state Urban Renewal Authority (LASURA) as a result of a default from occupiers of government shops who are majorly sub-tenants.

This the Committee described as a flagrant violation of the Lease Agreement of the state.

The Committee alleged that the internal control mechanism of the Local Government Service Commission was very weak and that five vouchers of N150, 000 was made without recourse to the internal auditor.

The Committee accused the Ministry of Home Affairs of continually flouting the instruction to maintain a standard store as records show that items taken from the store were never documented for audit.

The Committee said it also found that the state Water Corporation lost N510,000 revenue due to the non-payment of renewal fees by 45 contractors and has therefore mandated the head of account in the corporation to recover the money and forward the evidence to the House.

In the state Scholarship Board, the Committee noted that, “records reveal that four payment vouchers totalling N1 million were found not to have been receipted by the beneficiaries. Therefore audit could not confirm whether the amount paid was to the actual beneficiaries.”

The Committee said it could not verify the salary account of the Environmental and Special Offences (Enforcement) Unit and could not ascertain the total number of staff on its payroll and their total emolument.

The New Towns Authority was also indicted for purchasing items which were “not taken on charge before usage”, saying it was therefore difficult to know if the items were actually purchased.

The House also lamented the parlous state of the office of the state Auditor General and the Committee’s complaint that some of the agencies did not make their books available for scrutiny.

The House, while warning that henceforth, such irregularities would be seen as dereliction of duty and offenders sanctioned, also warned the revenue generating agencies to block all loopholes and prepare realistic estimates.

It also gave accountants and internal auditors two months to resolve all discrepancies in their financial records and pay roll or face appropriate sanctions.

It also urged Governor Babatunde Fashola to, as a matter of urgency, put the office of the Auditor-General in proper shape and fund the office for effectiveness.

—Eromosele Ebhomele