The House Committee of the Whole continued deliberations on the report and not only did the House consider the remaining 27 clauses that were not debated on Monday, it adopted the report and also approved the passage of a law that would criminalise extra-budgetary spending by Government officials. Most members of the House of Reps who contributed to the debate pointed out that extra-budgetary spending had become a norm because there are no laws specifying that such acts are as good as theft. It was also noted that where laws existed, they failed to prescribe sanctions for extra budgetary spending.
The members agreed that overspending the budget on fuel subsidy by over 900 % is criminal, and should treat as a criminal act. Hon Friday Itulah on his part observed that there is no lacuna in the constitution on extra-budgetary expenditure.
One of the recommendations that generated long debates was the 42nd one which states that “the payment of N999, 000,000 in 128 times within 24 hours (12th& 13th January, 2009) by the Office of the Accountant -General of the Federation should be further investigated by relevant Anti-Corruption Agencies.
Honourable Uche Ekwunife argued that the Accountant General between 12th and 13th January 2009 (current Gombe State Governor) who made an “irregular” payment of N999 million 128 times in 24 hours did not breach any rule.
Honourable Farouk Lawan however described the payment as “irregular and absurd.” He later read a letter from the Central Bank of Nigeria which stated that the payments were made to PPPRA’s account and thereafter paid to 52 companies.
Lawan therefore proposed that the PPPRA, rather than the then Accountant General of the Federation be investigated. The recommendation was thus amended.
In the letter, the CBN explained that the payments were in accordance with extant financial regulations.
Another recommendation that generated some debate was the one that stipulated that the auditing firms that verified the claims made by the companies be axed. Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila pushed for the amendment of the recommendation after faulting the appointment of a bank MD to verify the claims. He noted that the shake up in the banking industry could not be divorced from events that took place in the oil sector. He therefore suggested that a clause be included that a neutral auditing form should be contracted to do the verification.
Members of the House of Reps agreed that the outcome of the debate should be forwarded to President Goodluck Jonathan, the Senate and anti-corruption agencies for necessary action.
Meanwhile, the Deputy Speaker, Hon Ihedioha has announced a two-week extension of the assignment of the ad hoc committee on Management of Fuel Subsidy.