SERAP asks Buhari, Sylva to explain N116m spent on biros, letterheads

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Petroleum Ministers, Muhammadu Buhari and Timipre Sylva

The Socio-Economic Rights And Accountability Project (SERAP) has called on President Muhammadu Buhari and the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva to probe allegations that the ministry used N116 million to buy biros, letterheads and toners for photocopying machine in 2015.

The civil society organisation said that the president and minister must also disclose the amount used to purchase the same items in 2016 and 2020.

The Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation (AuGF) had last Thursday before the Senate Public Accounts Committee revealed that officials of the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources spent N116m to buy biros, letterhead and toners in one year, and alleged “contravention of the Public Procurement Act 2017 by the Permanent Secretary.”

In a letter dated December 12 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said: “The Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended), the UN Convention against Corruption and African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption require the government to ensure that Nigeria’s resources are used effectively and efficiently, and in a manner consistent with the public interest.”

“An effective and efficient ministry ought to keep careful track of how it spends public money, and put in place a system to eliminate corruption, mismanagement, unnecessary, inefficient, or unreasonable expenditures.

“Transparency and openness in the spending by your Ministry would ensure the public trust, efficient, effective and competent delivery of public goods and services. Openness in the spending by your Ministry will also strengthen the country’s democracy and promote efficiency and integrity in government.”

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The letter copied to the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN, read in part: “Any allegations of misuse of public funds may constitute serious misconduct that impairs the efficiency of your Ministry, and undermines public confidence in the ability of ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to provide essential public goods and services to Nigerians.”

“SERAP is concerned that the allegations by the Office of the Auditor-General raises serious violations of anti-corruption legislation, the Nigerian Constitution and international anti-corruption standards.

“Public officials and MDAs should act and take decisions on the spending of public funds in an open, transparent and accountable manner, and submit themselves to the scrutiny necessary to ensure this.

“A democratic government accountable to the people must be as transparent as possible and must not withhold information for self-serving reasons or simply to avoid embarrassment.

“We would therefore be grateful if you would indicate the measures being taken to probe the spending of N116m on biros, letterhead and toners in 2015, and disclose the total amount spent on the same items between 2016 and 2020 within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter.

“If we have not heard from you by then as to the steps being taken in this direction, the Registered Trustees of SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel your Ministry to implement these recommendations in the interest of transparency and accountability.

“The Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources has a legal obligation to conduct an effective investigation into any allegations of breach of anti-corruption legislation and international standards, including those relating to the spending by the Ministry on biros, letterhead and toners between 2015 and 2020.”

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