The Governor of Borno State, Babagana Zulum, is known for preaching the need for accountability and anti-corruption measures in governance. But his state’s 2020 auditor general’s report suggests he barely walks the talk.
According to the report, five ministries in the state could not account for N414 million.
The state’s auditor general, Shettima Bukar, said 29 queries were issued to the ministries for lack of supporting documents for expenditures made in the period under review. Many of the queries were not responded to.
Nine of the queries were issued to two ministries – Home Affairs/Information/Culture and Housing/Energy – which spent a total of N22,155,800 without attaching official receipts, receipts for materials, approvals, for not signing payment vouchers and the absence of the stamp of the internal auditor as required by the state’s procurement regulation.
Five of the nine queries were issued to the Ministry of Home Affairs, Information and Culture to account for N21,650,000 while four queries were issued to the Ministry of Housing and Energy for not providing supporting documents for expenditure worth N505,800.
“Similarly, during the writing of the Annual Report for the year 2019, there were unprocessed queries which were not included in the 2019 Report, which are material for inclusion in this year’s 2020 Auditor-General’s Annual Report.
“These are twenty (20) queries involving a total sum of three hundred and ninety-two million four hundred and fifty thousand four hundred and twenty-three naira and twenty-nine kobo (N392,450,423.29) only, which were issued in respect of four (4) Ministries. And these queries were also not responded to up to the time of writing this report,” Mr Shettima, the auditor-general, said.
The four ministries indicted in 2019 are those of Agriculture and Natural Resources; Housing and Energy; Religious Affairs and Special Education; and Local Governments and Emirate Affairs. They were unable to retire N357,720, N1,120,000, N350,972,703 and N40,000,000 respectively. These add up to N414,606,223.29.
The auditor-general attributed the anomalies to the inadequacies in the control system of most of the MDAs which left many payment vouchers lacking the necessary documentary evidence to justify the payments made.
The report also highlighted the lapses in the submission of some important financial, budgetary, and administrative documents.
“This has been reported in my previous reports and yet they persist without any remedy,” the auditor-general said.
We asked Isa Gusau, the spokesperson for Mr Zulum, what the governor is doing about the indictments in the report.
He said, “The Borno State Government is large and has numerous government establishments, so much that no matter how Governor Zulum tries to ensure proper accounting, there could be some circumventing by some.
“No official in Borno State can have the audacity to try diverting funds under Zulum as governor.”
He, however, said the governor is taking the report seriously.
“Governor Zulum has since directed relevant officials to ensure the provision of support documents on those expenditures,” insisting that “it is not possible for N400 million to be expended under Zulum, without evidence of project, programme or any other government activity.”
The auditor’general recommends the ‘proper implementation of the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS), the importance of which includes greater disclosure of information, leading to transparency, integrity, accountability and comparability.
This, he says, will reduce “the challenges or shortcomings of submission of copies of contract agreements, approvals for employment, council conclusions on government programmes, copies of conveyance of approvals for payments and establishment circulars etc. and shall no longer be a tedious task.”
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