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CORRUPTION: Ministry of Foreign Affairs Mismanages N28billion Meant For Distressed Missions

Report has it that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, under Minister Geoffrey Onyeama, allegedly mismanaged $68 million (about N28 billion) released by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration in 2018 for disbursement to some of the country’s foreign missions.

This disclosure was gotten from the government’s audit report, which followed the request of an explanation from the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary.

According to the Auditor-General’s report, queries were sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs seeking explanation of the issues around the disbursement of $68 million.

The report; “Issue 1 – Lack of accountability in the Disbursement of intervention fund for distressed missions – $68,875,902. Financial Regulations No. 415 states that “The Federal Government requires all officers responsible for expenditure to exercise due economy. Money must not be spent merely because it has been voted.

“Audit examination of the Ministry’s accounting records showed that a total of US $68,875,902 was approved by the President as intervention fund for distressed Nigerian missions abroad. The sum which was in three tranches – USD32,873,896.68, USD28,810,217.80 and USD7,191,787.52 was meant to address challenges such as: missions’ indebtedness, renovation and refurbishment of missions’ chanceries and residencies, and replacement of broken-down representational vehicles.

“Detailed examination of the Ministry’s accounting records however, revealed the following anomalies; one, the sum of N268,814,121.20 was diverted from the first tranche of the intervention fund and was expended on ‘exigencies and sundry items’, part of which N101,230,676.95 which, according to the documents presented by the Ministry, was for bank charges on remittance of funds by the Central Bank of Nigeria.

“No explanation was given, nor documents released justifying how the balance of N167,583,444.25 was utilised. Two, documents evidencing the disbursement of the second tranche of USD28,810,217.80 such as distribution breakdown of the funds to the beneficiary missions, expenditure returns for money received, and request for settlements of indebtedness from missions were not presented.

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“Three, while a request for the third tranche of USD6,691,787.52 was made, the Ministry got approval for the sum of USD7,191,787.52 which was later released, giving an excess of USD500,000.00.

“The Ministry however approved the release of the excess to the Consulate-General of Nigeria in Dubai, which was originally not among the missions in need of intervention funds.

“The issue had been communicated to the Permanent Secretary vide Management Letter Ref No. OAuGF/MAD/AI/2017/Vol.1/1 on 8th May, 2019 followed by two reminders vide Reference No. OAuGF/MAD/AI/2017/Vol.1/1b and OAuGF/MAD/AI/2017/Vol.1/1c dated 3rd July, 2019 and22nd August, 2019, respectively. No response was received from management at the time of our report.

“The Permanent Secretary is required to render full account as to how the sum of USD68,875,902.00 was disbursed to the benefiting missions, failing which sanctions should apply.”

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