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Reps panel ask finance minister to remove FCCPC director over unapproved spending

Reps panel ask finance minister to remove FCCPC director over unapproved spending
September 06
20:40 2022

A house of representatives committee has asked the minister of finance to “remove” Akinyoghan Ojo, the current director of finance and accounts of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) from office, over extra-budgetary spending.

James Faleke, chairman of the committee on finance, made the request at an interactive session on the 2023-2025 medium-term expenditure framework (MTEF) on Tuesday.

Ojo, who appeared before the committee on finance said the agency generated N4.02 billion in 2021 and remitted N1.3 billion to the consolidated revenue fund (CRF).

For 2022, he said N3.661 billion has been generated as of July, and that N1.2 billion has been remitted to the federal government. 

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He was immediately queried by Faleke, who asked why a fully funded agency should spend funds outside its budget, adding that the agency was expected to refund 100 percent of its revenue to the consolidated revenue fund (CRF).

In his defence, Ojo said the unremitted funds were used for running costs, which he said were approved by a “supervisory committee”.

Unsatisfied, Faleke said the agency violated the provision of the constitution, and then directed the clerk of the committee to write to the minister of finance to remove Ojo as the director of finance and accounts of FCCPC.

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Section 81 of the 1999 constitution stipulates that “all revenues or other money raised or received by the federation (not being revenues or other money payable under this constitution or any act of the national assembly into any other public fund of the federation established for a specific purpose) shall be paid into and form one consolidated revenue fund of the federation.”

“Clerk, collect his service number. I want you to write a letter to the minister of finance. He must be removed. If everybody spends their income, how will the government fund the budget? You (FCCPC) earned N4 billion and spent N3 billion,” he said. 

“I will not take it. The director of finance has the responsibility to obey finance regulations. If he (Ojo) violated financial regulations, he should leave the place.

“Clerk, write to the minister of finance, that in respect of this agency, no funds should be released until we have seen the letter of the redeployment of the DFA. No fund should be released.”

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However, Ojo said the agency had applied for financial autonomy from its supervisory agency — the ministry of trade and investment.

“We presented our internally generated revenue (IGR) budget to our committee and it was approved by the committee. The money they allocated to us from the treasury, we have not touched it. We did that because we have applied for financial autonomy through our minister — the minister of trade and investment,” he said.

But Faleke insisted that only money approved should be spent by an agency that is fully funded by the government.

“You presented your IGR budget outside the national budget? What’s that? Does that make sense? You applied but your approval has not been granted, you decided to spend money without approval. The issue is that the government appropriates money to you,” he said.

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“At the beginning of every year, you envisage your budget based on what you expect you will need. You present it to the national assembly and get your approval. If you are not saying that because you are doing VAT enforcement, that is why you have to spend N2 billion on your own outside appropriation.”

Faleke said the agency ought to have submitted an amendment or supplementary budget, adding that “it is every IGR that is collated to form the national income.”

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Also speaking, Adamu Abdulahi, the executive commissioner of FCCPC, said the agency increased its operation cost to generate money.

“It takes money to generate money,” he said.

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Sa’idu Abdullahi, deputy chairman of the committee, said, the agency should be prevented from making unnecessary spending.

“Last year, you spent N38 million on publicity and advert placement. So far, in seven months, you have spent over N142 million. The same thing applies to all your overheads. If you look at local training, you spent N198 million. In seven months, you have spent over N266 million. If you look at local transport, it is the same thing,” he said.

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“All we get is that you are just creating expenses around these items. More unfortunate [is] that you are a fully funded agency. We are not prudent in the way we manage resources.”

In his ruling, Therefore, Faleke asked the office of the accountant-general of the federation to suspend the agency’s account until the infraction is reconciled.

“There is N570 million in that account, block that money, it must not be spent until we clear them. On Monday. all your officers must appear. Come with a new director of finance,” he said.

The agency is expected to appear before the committee with a new director of finance and accounts next Tuesday. 

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