About eight Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) have spent N728 million on foreign trips and conferences without getting appropriate approval, according to the Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation (OAuGF).
This is contained in its annual report on the non-compliance/internal control weaknesses in MDAs of the Federal Government for the year 2020.
The audit, scrutinizing the fiscal activities for 2020, pinpointed notable entities such as the National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP) and the National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB), both located in Abuja, alongside the University of Uyo in Akwa Ibom State.
The list extends to include the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, and the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, among others.
These public organisations have been identified for their oversight in bypassing critical approval processes mandated by either the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) or the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (OHCSF), which should have been secured within the first quarter of the budgetary year prior to the execution of such expenditures.
This oversight not only highlights a lapse in internal control mechanisms but also raises questions about the fiscal discipline and accountability within these pivotal federal institutions.
The report read:
- “Paragraph 2(i) of the Establishment Circular Ref No. SGF/OP/I/S.3/XII/158 of 15th October, 2019 states ‘…For the avoidance of doubt, all yearly travel plans for statutory meetings and engagements must receive express clearance from the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and/or the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation within the first quarter of the fiscal year before implementation…’
- “Furthermore, paragraph 2(ii) of the Establishment Circular Ref No. SGF/OP/I/S.3/XII/158 of 15th October, 2019 states ‘…All public funded travels (local and foreign) must be strictly for official purposes backed with documentary evidence. Particularly, foreign travels must be for highly essential, statutory engagements that are beneficial to the interest of Nigeria…’”
SEC spends highest amount
The audit also noted that Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Abuja has spent the highest amount of N361.79 million, which is nearly 50% of the total amount spent by MDAs without the right approval.
The report read:
- “The sum of 728,004,233.28 (Seven hundred and twenty-eight million, four thousand, two hundred and thirty-three naira, twenty-eight kobo) was the amount of paid for overseas travels and conferences without approval by eight (8) Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), and
- “Securities and Exchange Commission, Abuja has the highest amount of #361,787,800.38 (Three hundred and sixty one million, seventy hundred and eighty seven thousand, eight hundred five naira, thirty eight) while the University of Uyo, Akwa, Ibom State has the least amount of 1,645,000.00 (One million, six hundred and forty five thousand naira).”
- The spotlight has recently intensified on the foreign travels undertaken by President Bola Tinubu and Vice President Kashim Shettima, sparking debates over the financial implications of such trips on Nigeria’s already strained budget.
- Amid attempts to boost Nigeria’s profile on the global stage and attract foreign investment, the nation has, paradoxically, seen a decline in foreign capital inflow. According to recent figures, Nigeria garnered a modest $654.65 million in foreign capital in the third quarter of 2023, with Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) making up just 0.091% of total capital imports during this period.
- Looking ahead to 2024, the financial footprint of international and domestic travels by President Tinubu, Vice President Shettima, and their entourage is projected to cost the national treasury an estimated N15.96 billion.
- In a proactive move to rein in government spending, President Tinubu has endorsed a significant 60% cutback in travel expenses for government officials. This decision is part of a broader strategy aimed at fiscal consolidation and reflects the administration’s commitment to prudent financial management amidst economic challenges.