Babagana Zulum, the governor of Borno State, talks a lot about accountability and fighting corruption, but the state’s 2020 auditor general’s report found that he hardly practices what he preaches.
Five ministries in the state, according to the study, were unable to account for N414 million.
Shettima Bukar, the state’s auditor general, reported that 29 questions regarding the ministries’ failure to provide justification for spending during the time period under consideration. Many of the questions received no answers.
The Ministry of Home Affairs, Information and Culture and the Ministry of Housing and Energy each received nine of the queries because they spent a combined N22,155,800 without providing official receipts, receipts for materials, approvals, signing payment vouchers, or the internal auditor’s stamp, all of which are required by state procurement regulations.
The Ministry of Housing and Energy received four of the nine requests for failing to provide supporting documentation for expenditures totaling N505,800, while five of the nine queries were directed at the Ministry of Home Affairs, Information, and Culture to account for N21,650,000.
“In a similar vein, unprocessed queries that were not included in the 2019 Report but are relevant for inclusion in this year’s 2020 Auditor General’s Annual Report were received during the composition of the Annual Report for the year 2019.”
These twenty (20) queries, which were submitted in relation to four (4) Ministries, total 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). Additionally, these inquiries received no responses as of the writing of this report, according to Mr. Shettima, the auditor general.
The Ministry of Local Governments and Emirate Affairs, Ministry of Housing and Energy, Ministry of Religious Affairs and Special Education, and Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources were the four ministries indicted in 2019 for failing to retire amounts totaling N357,720, N1,120,000, N350,972,703, and N40,000,000, respectively. They total N414,606,223.99.
The auditor general attributed the irregularities to shortcomings in the control systems of the majority of MDAs, which led to a rise in the number of payment vouchers due to a lack of the required documentation evidence to support the payments made.
The audit also drew attention to the failures to submit a few crucial financial, budgetary, and administrative documents.
The message read, “This has been noted in my prior reports and yet they continue without any cure.”
We were unable to contact the ministries, but when asked what Mr. Zulum was doing about the accusations in the report, his spokesperson, Isa Gusau, responded, “No matter how Governor Zulum tries to ensure proper accounting, there could be some circumvention by some. The Borno State Government is large and has numerous government establishments.
Under Zulum’s leadership as governor, he added, “No official in Borno State can have the temerity to try diverting monies.”
The governor, he claimed, is paying attention to the findings.
Insisting that “it is not conceivable for N400 million to be expended under Zulum, without evidence of project, program, or any other government activity,” Governor Zulum “has subsequently asked appropriate personnel to ensure the supply of support documents on those expenditures.”
“Proper application of the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS), whose importance includes better exposure of information, leading to transparency, honesty, accountability, and comparability,” is what the auditor general advises.
As a result, he claims, “the challenges or shortcomings of submission of copies of contract agreements; approvals for employment; council conclusions on government programs; copies of conveyance of approvals for payments and establishment circulars, etc. and shall no longer be a tedious task, shall be greatly mitigated against.”
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