March 18, 2015.
By: Ibrahim Olalekan
Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts, and Senatorial Candidate of Lagos West for the All Progressives Congress (APC), Hon. Olamilekan Adeola, in this interview with some online bloggers last weekend, speaks about rot in the handling of public finances, his senatorial campaign and other sundry issues.
AS CHAIRMAN OF PUBLIC ACCOUNTS COMMITTEE, WHAT HAVE BEEN DONE TO CORRECT FINANCIAL DISCREPANCIES?
At the Federal level where I currently serve, I chair the only constitutionally recognised committee in the house which is the Committee on Public Account. That committee will be the only one that scrutinizes financial activities as relating to the federation account.
The office is only supervised with Office of the Auditor General of the Federation which its primary assignment is to audit the book and record of the Federal Government every financial year. But prior to my assumption of office as the Chairman of that committee, the office of the Auditor General of the Federation was in shambles; this is one office that in accordance with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, under section 85-89, is created and empowered to carry out various financial audit assignment to be carried out.
But we have an office that has been relegated to the background; rather than putting that office in the status it rightly belongs, the government of the day has succeeded in relegating office of the Auditor General of the Federation to the background by ensuring funding of that office is nothing to write home about.
Part of my own achievement which I have been able to do, is to put that office back into proper by going into constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and ensuring that all the functions, duties and roles as contained in that constitution is strictly adhered to by the Federal Government. Prior to that, no agency of the Federal Government regards the report of the AGF.
But as a result of my professionalism, being a member of institute and having trained in an audit firm-Olatunji Omoyeni & co, Chattered Accountant for so many years, that gives me an edge in interpreting the Auditor General’s report; carrying out status enquiry into the financial activities of what is on the script; interpreting the budget of the Federal Government, and see the level of presentation vis-à-vis fund release, capital expenditure or any other expenditure as incurred by the Federal Government. All this I was able to put together and put that office on track. And for the first time, you see the agencies of the Federal Government rushing to the office of the Auditor General to clear out financial issues.
Prior to now, the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria do not empower the Auditor General of the Federation to audit all the ministries and the parastatals of the government. As a result of the constitution amendment, we have given power to the Auditor General’s office to audit all the 601 agencies of the Federal Government in the Federation.
On the issue of the missing $20 billion which the Federal Government, through Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Minister of Finance and coordinating Minister of the Economy rushed to PriceWaterHouseCoopers to carry out an audit exercise; if we have an office of the Auditor General that is truly independent, where training and retraining of staff is the order of the day, and truly equipped to carry out this exercise, we will not have any need to call in Price Water Coppers to carry out audit exercise.
The audit carried out by the private firm as I speak is yet to be submitted to us and we don’t know why they are hiding the report yet President Goodluck Jonathan keep saying he remains the first President that has signed out the Freedom of Information Bill.
We have the then Central Bank Governor (Sanusi Lamido Sanusi) declared that $20 billion was missing and the President returned to Nigeria saying we have only $1.584 billion missing.
Of recent, the Liquefied Natural Gas appeared before my committee and I asked how much have been contributed to the Federation Account within the period they have been in existence, they replied they are not 100% owned by the Federal Government.
And they made it known to us that between 2004 and 2014, on a quarterly basis, they have succeeded to remit to the FG the sum of $14.6 billion each to the federal account through an account given to them by the Nigerian National Petroleum Commission (NNPC); in value, that comes to about three trillion naira.
Documents to back up the payment was submitted to my office by the Liquefied National Gas and when we asked the NNPC to confirm the status of the documents released to us by the Liquefied Natural Gas to confirm if truly such an amount of money has been paid to government’s coffers, next line of action of the NNPC was for their legal adviser to write us that they have no information in that regards and there was a case in court that gave them bench order not to release any information to the national assembly.
The last twelve years of my working life has been in the legislative business; and for a Senatorial district which is the largest in Nigeria, and constitutes about 58% of the entire Lagos (38.1 million) we cannot afford to send anybody who is not experience enough to the highest body of law making. The Senate remains one office that respected Nigerians, people who have distinguished themselves in their chosen field of human endeavours are elected to go there to make constructive representation for the people.
POLITICAL VIOLENCE WITH OPPOSITION PARTY
I’m bold to say that my own party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), is a violence free party. Our records are there. In the year 2011, I contested this same office with Segun Adewale, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). On the day of election, Segun Adewale was arrested with a pistol, handcuffed and taken to Panti Police Station. He has been to my campaign office to attack me with guns and matchet, the records are there. In terms of violence, somebody said he is popular. Yes. I will not contest that with him because I’m not a thug; but in terms of business of the day, I leave the people to decide who they want to be as their next Senator.
I know Adewale is involved in so many activities that no normal or right thinking human being would think of. He was a cultist and a thug; when you look at him, you see cuts all over his face. His real name is not Adewale but ‘Scarface’, and he can be linked to armed robbery attack that has happened in the past in Alimosho Local Government. He confessed to be a former cult member on a live programme he attended on Wazobia Fm with Lolo.
With due respect to his person, we don’t operate on the same level. He keeps saying I collect N25 billion every month; if I collect N25 billion every month that means in two to three years I have collected the entire budget of the federation.
As a member of the Federal House of Representatives, I haven’t left my profession; I have my own firm of Chattered Accountant, I collect audit and still audit books. I make about N60 million every year in my firm. Anybody who is in office and doesn’t have his own business by the side is joking. You cannot survive it because you have to continue to spend.
We don’t collect constituency allowance; but there is need for us to have constituency project so that Federal Government presence can be felt in all federal constituencies. If we have been involved in the constituency projects, by now the Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), would have been running after the Honourable members.
For example, I nominated a road for the Federal Government to install solar powered light in Alimosho. I am not involved in who pays the contractor; it is after the contractor has done a satisfactory job and the community attest to it that he is paid his money by the Federal Government.
FINANCIAL ROT AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL
The recurrent expenditure takes the largest part of our budget; it’s about 76% of the entire budget while capital expenditure which ought to be dividend of democracy to the people is about 24% and you wonder the kind of budget are running.
Each year, a Service Wide Votes of about N360 billion is spent by three people, the Minister of Finance, Director-General of Budget and the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Once the budget is approved, it is divided into two- budget of Ministries and Departments of the government and the Service Wide Votes; that is why you refer to the Service Wide Votes as a budget in the budget because if you look at the breakdown of the Service Wide Votes, we have what is called capital expenditure and recurrent expenditure. And when you look at it in the Ministries and Departments, we have what is called capital expenditure and the recurrent expenditure. How does the Federal Government measure budget performance?
When money released to Agencies of the government in a financial year will be 40% or 45%, the Service Wide Votes will be about 90%. These are facts and figures. I challenge the Minister of Finance to release to Nigeria, the actuals that was released from 2014 budget to Nigerians.
As I speak, the National Assembly has scrapped the Service Wide Votes account for this 2015. Each financial year, the Service Wide Votes is more than 30% of the over- all budget. You see Ministries and Departments groaning in pain that there is no money and on the other side see Okonjo-Iweala saying she has released money.
There will be a press release here on Friday; I will release that document on National Liquefied Gas to the press, and the PriceWaterHouseCoopers report, and also the 2014 budget performance. The Jonathan Government will bring more money to us as legislators but the Buhari government will bring little or no money to us and is for the benefit of everybody.
They don’t want Buhari there because he is going for the masses and they will be exposed; people running Nigerian money are not more than 100 and these are the people saying Buhari will not get there at all cost because they are scared.
President Jonathan keeps rolling out cash hundreds of thousands of dollars; money that can be used in constructing roads and putting up electricity. $8.271 billion has been expended on power by Jonathan’s administration and yet there is no light and yet they want to stay in power.
What do we stand to gain if we deceive ourselves? We are not asking for Change because we want to be in power but because we believe Nigerians deserve better than what we are currently getting.
REPORT HAS IT THAT YOU CONTESTED THE OGUN WEST SENATORIAL SEAT. HOW TRUE IS THIS?
On the issue of contesting in Ogun State, I have not contested in Ogun State; I’m contesting in Lagos and there is no record that I have contested in Ogun State.