The Senate has threatened to withhold the 2023 Capital Budget of 100 Federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies until they answer the queries raised against them by the Auditor General for the Federation.
The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, made this known on the floor of the Senate while ruling on a point of order raised by the Chairman, Senate Public Accounts Committee, Senator Matthew Urhoghide.
Urhoghide, who came under a point of order, drew the attention of his colleagues to the flagrant disregard of heads of federal MDAs to Senate invitations to answer queries raised against them by the Auditor-General of the Federation.
He lamented that the agencies’ heads, who were public officers, were disrespecting the Senate despite the fact that Sections 88 and 89 of the Constitution gave the red chamber power to summon them.
Some of the MDAs are: Office of the Accountant General of the Federation; Ministries of Interior; Transportation; Mines and Solid Mineral Development; Information; Communication; Petroleum; Defence; Police Affairs; Sports; Works and Housing; and Women Affairs.
Others are: the State House; Presidential Fleet; Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps; Independent National Electoral Commission; North-East Development Commission; Nigerian Intelligence Agency; and the Nigerian Air Force, among others.
Urhoghide said, “The agencies that have vehemently refused to appear before our committee, this list of agencies and the amount that is against their name are staggering.
“I crave your indulgence that we invite through your order, either by way of warrant of arrest or anything, so that these agencies can come that we can complete our report and submit to this Senate, coming under order 42, 95 which clearly explains the mandate of the committee of public account of the Senate.”
Lawan upheld Urhoghide’s point of order and insisted that the public officers who utilised funds appropriated to their MDAs must give account.
He said, “Your point of order are sustained fully and completely, totally sustained, you are right on the dot to bring to the plenary your grievances. Secondly, I once served as chairman of the public account committee for eight years. My only problem is when you write agencies and they refuse to honour the invite, you’d many times be forced to bring them through a warrant of arrest.
“Reading this list at plenary gives the agencies the opportunity to now know if they were not aware before for those that may claim ignorance.
“I am taking the opportunity here to advise that in the next one week, if the name of any agency is here, that agency should reach the committee on public account of the Senate to sort our when the agency would appear before the committee.
“If there is no communication whatsoever and no cogent and verifiable reason are given, we will slash the budget of the agencies.”