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Senate queries EFCC’s ‘outrageous’ 2013 budget

EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim LamordeEFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Lamorde
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The Senate Committee on Drugs, Narcotics, and Anticorruption on Thursday questioned the expenses of the Economic and financial Crimes Commission which the committee described as outrageous.

While considering the agency’s 2013 budget proposals, Senators frowned at the huge allocations for travels and trainings, and directed the EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Lamorde to provide justification for the budget.

“You are an agency fighting corruption and you must ensure transparency. We need to have all the evidence that you paid for these items,” Chairman of the committee, Senator Victor Lar, told the EFCC boss.

A member of the committee, Senator Benedict Ayade, had raised questions over a N357m budget by the agency for local travels and transportation; another N100m for international travels; N73m for local training and another N130m for international training.

The member also pointed out that the anti-graft commission in 2012 spent N54m for sporting activities and frowned at the payment of N135m for satellite and broadband charges.

In his response, Lamorde said that the amount allocated for travels was justifiable in that it was meant to cater for transport and operational expenses of investigators.

He said, “A lot of funding is required for travelling to the different locations where investigations are to be carried out. You cannot predict the actual amount of money that would be required because an investigator may go to a location and would spend a week in order to be able to do a thorough job.

“The team of investigators may compromise two or three detectives with another set of officers who would serve as protection and they have to be paid their DTAs and other allowances.

“We have to ensure that they are properly accommodated so that they are not exposed to compromises.”

The EFCC boss said the commission would present the payment vouchers for the amount to substantiate his claims.

Lamorde told the Senate committee that the EFCC had been unable to achieve major convictions because of manipulations by suspects who were in “control of huge wealth.”

He said that though the commission had secured 200 convictions in 2012, they were largely related to Advance Fee Fraud and other minor financial crimes. He told the committee that some suspects standing trial had overwhelming financial resources to frustrate their trial in court.

According to him, the EFCC has established a department on asset forfeiture which would ensure that suspects’ assets were frozen, thereby reducing access to funds with which they could frustrate their trials.

The committee had sought explanations on why some important public figures standing trial could not be convicted thereby raising fears that the EFCC had been bungling its court cases.

Lamorde said, “The truth is, no case has been concluded. I don’t think it is correct to say that whether the charges framed are not properly done or the prosecutors are not putting the cases properly. What we have is that the trials are on-going.

“We have example of a case we charged to court in 2006; for this very case, we have gone to the Supreme Court twice on just interlocutory applications. They will file this, the judge will overrule them, they will go to Court of Appeal and lose there but they will still go to the Supreme Court. At the Supreme Court when they lose, they will be asked to go to the trial judge for the case to continue.

“They will come with another application and certainly for lawyers among us we know how long it takes for a trial to go to Court of Appeal and get listed, then go to the Supreme Court get it listed and decided upon. This is the fate of most of the cases we have in court.”

Meanwhile, the commission has said it is planning to drop the use of external solicitors for the prosecution of its cases in court to reduce the cost of legal charges.

Lamorde noted that funds were not provided in the 2012 Appropriation for legal services and had to struggle to get a few lawyers to help in working for them during the period.

He said that though N200m was proposed by the commission for legal services for 2013, the Budget Office reduced it to N100m.

“We are planning to stop giving cases to external solicitors. We are trying to develop the capacity of the EFCC lawyers, using the assistance of international cooperation. Because even the convictions we have made were made possible through the efforts of the internal lawyers,” he said.

The commission’s 2013 budget breakdown showed that it has a total allocation of N9.328b, down from its N21.028b request.

Lamorde said the commission requested for N6.514b for personnel expenditure, but had N5.804b allocated to it by the Budget Office thus leaving a shortfall of N710.230m.

“Due to this shortfall, the commission would not be able to meet its personnel cost fully in 2013,” he said.

According to him, the commission achieved 85 per cent budget implementation in 2012. He said the remaining 15 per cent might be realised before the end of the year.

-Punch

Short URL: http://newnigerianpolitics.com/?p=26604

Posted by on Nov 22 2012. Filed under EFCC Politics, Legislature, Senate. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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