The Senate Committee on Public Accounts on Thursday expressed suspicion over N44 billion the Military Pensions Board expended without budgetary provisions between 2015 and 2017.
Chairman of the Committee, Senator Mathew Uroghide explained that the board was evasive in response to the committee’s demands on payment of pensions from Service Wide Votes (SWV) instead of budgetary provisions, which was the normal practice.
Uroghide who relied on figures, which showed that over N44 billion of SWV has been released to the Military Pensions Board between 2015 – 2017 by the office of the Accountant General of the Federation, wondered how it came about without approval of the National Assembly.
The chairman was dissatisfied that responses from the board to letters sent by the committee fell short of what they had expected from them.
Senator Uroghide said, “What I observed in the replies you gave to us was not satisfactory. In your presentation you were talking of 169 million. What we are asking is how you spent N44 billion from Service Wide Votes.
“Releases from the service wide vote are what we are concerned and not the budgetary provisions.
“A number of times, we have invited you so that we can put this in a proper perspective, we have not been able to see you.
“In explaining how this fund was spent, don’t give us nebulous explanation. Be very clear so that in the next one week, we would be able to submit our report to the red chambers”
However, the Chairman of Military Pensions Board, Brigadier-General, Adekunle Adigun Adesope denied of being absent whenever he was needed.
According to Adesope, he quite appreciated the effort of the committee, saying that a wrong impression has been created by the them.
He said, “I would like to correct an impression that I was supposed to be around and I never came. It’s wrong.
“The last time I came, the chairman was busy and after waiting for hours, I left.
“We are very much aware of importance of this Committee and that was the reason the the clerk had interacted with my director of Accounts and Administration.
“We have made our submission to the Committee and if our submissions were inadequate, they should revert to us.”
Brigadier Adesope further disclosed that the board spends N9.2 billion monthly for 92,000 military pensioners, adding that he did not know how the Federal government came about payment of pensions from Service Wide Votes instead of the budget.
“I paid 92,000 pensioners every month from service wide votes instead of through budgets, and the reason it was like that, I don’t know, he added”
A member of the Committee, Senator Foster Ogola insisted that the board must respond to the committee’s inquiries appropriately.
“We have a letter written to you and was specific on Service Wide Vote. Are you confirming to us that you don’t have line budgets for your pensioners?” Ogola queried.
Senator Phillip Gyunka on his part explained that the report submitted by the board was haphazard, saying that the Board’s Director of Finance and Administration was doing things wrongly.
“The report you submitted to us is haphazard. You have to do the right thing item by item and submit. If you do the right thing, it will not take us time,” he noted.
Meanwhile, the Committee Chairman asked officials from the office of the Accountant-General of the Federation to roll out the amount released so far to enable the board deal with possible disparity
“There is disparity in figures and I want you to leave here with figures from the office of the Accountant General whose representatives are here.”