House C’ttee Orders Finance Ministry to Return N11.2m to Federation Account

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By James Emejo in Abuja 

The House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts has issued a 30-day ultimatum to the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun to return to the federation coffers, the sum of N11.2 million allegedly cornered by ministry officials to organise a fictitious seminar for some stakeholders at an undisclosed location within the country. 

The committee, acting on four queries brought against the ministry by the Office of the Auditor General for the Federation for financial transactions in 2010 requested for immediate refund and remittances, and evidences made available to it.

According to records, the sum of N4.98 million had been earmarked for the seminar while N6. 25 million was said to be withholding taxes deductions from payments to contractors in 2010 which were never remitted to Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) as required by law.

The committee, further criticised the action of the ministry in granting N46.9 million cash advances to 18 of its staff within the period to procure stationeries and other office items without retirements as at when due.

It consequently mandated the minister to issue queries to the affected workers to serve as deterrent to others.

Chairman of the committee, Hon. Kingsley Chinda said in an attempt to cover up the financial abuses, the ministry concocted documents tendered as evidence, which do not tally with the figures and claims of the AGF as contained in the queries.

He noted that the actions of the ministry in approving the advances and tolerating late retirements of expenditures breached approved government’s financial regulations.

The committee also said claims by the ministry that it remitted a separate N85.58 million to FIRS as taxes, arising from four contracts it awarded between March and June 2010 to Reynolds Construction Company (RCC) and A & K Construction Ltd could not be verified.

The committee members therefore ordered the ministry to within seven days reconcile its value added tax (VAT) receipts with the tax authorities as they appeared to be misleading and counterfeited.

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Mr. Mahmoud Isa – Dutse, who represented the minister at an investigative hearing, had tried to persuade the committee from meting out sanctions over the ministry’s seeming indiscretions in financial approvals, expenditures and remittances.

He stated that the ministry forwarded adequate evidences to the committee capable of absolving the ministry of any financial abuse.

While pleading for more time to enable the ministry return with authenticated evidence to back up the numerous charges by the AuGF, the permanent secretary said sufficient evidence, capable of absolving the ministry of any financial abuse had been made available to the committee.

Nevertheless, the AuGF had in its recommendations on the queries asked the National Assembly to demand refunds of misused funds, in line with the anti- corruption stance of President Muhammadu Buhari government.