The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in 2019 failed to account for extra-budgetary contractual liability totaling over N48 billion, according to the latest government audit report.
The failure, according to the report, was attributed to weakness in the internal control system of the ministry, which allowed misappropriation of public funds and difficulty in funding the budget. The report said the outstanding incurred by the ministry was because they did not take necessary actions to pay eligible contractors.
Auditors relied on Paragraph 2906 (ii) of the Financial Regulations (FR) that stipulates “…all procurement plans must be supported by prior budgetary appropriation as proof of availability of funds. In other words, payments that are not provided for in the annual estimates shall not be accepted”.
Also, the report highlights that Paragraph 417 of the FR states that “Expenditure shall strictly be classified in accordance with the Estimates, and votes must be applied only to the purpose for which the money is provided. Expenditure incorrectly charged to a vote shall be disallowed.”
The report produced by the auditor-general of the federation also said the ministry used over N7 billion released for the 2019 first quarter capital project to pay for its traditional capital project of the previous year (2018).
“The 2018 Capital Project appropriation of the Ministry was duly funded and released in the year, and there were no acceptable justifications for utilising 2019 first quarter capital release to pay for 2018 projects,” the report said.
In a letter dated November 3, 2020, the agric ministry’s management said the action was regretted and that the matter was under investigation by relevant anti-graft agencies.
Despite President Muhammadu Buhari’s repeated promise to revive the country’s agric sector, the sector has remained underfunded, yet funds allocated to the ministry are often mismanaged and sometimes diverted.
Due to inefficiencies of the agric ministry, Mr Buhari in September sacked the then Minister of Agriculture, Sabo Nanono.