By Udora Orizu
The House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts on Monday asked the Nigerian Embassy in Israel to explain the rationale behind the withdrawal of $1,046,258.99 to pay utility bills in 2014.
The Chairman of the committee, Hon. Wole Oke, disclosed this during the review of the audit queries issued by the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation (oAuGF) against the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs between 2013 to 2015.
The Auditor-General, Anthony Ayine, also queried the alleged illegal withdrawal of $858,704 and $187,554 internally generated revenue (IGR) by the Nigerian Embassy in Israel in respect to the visa and administrative charges from the period of 2013 to 2015.
In the audit query, the following irregularities were observed: ”Treasury book 6A and revenue booklet were not kept and consequently not made available. Revenue collector registered with details of Treasury 6A and relevant amount were not maintained.
”The revenue cash books were not updated with relevant entries throughout 2014 and 2015. The ordinary register maintained by the Consular section has no treasury receipt and the amount generated for each booklet monthly figures were just recorded without details. All these irregularities violated Financial Regulations 208, 209 and 210 and questions the accountability and transparency of the revenue collection.
”The Permanent Secretary has been requested to explain the irregularities in revenue collection and account for the sum of $858,704.50 collected as well as carried out the surcharge of the officer-involved otherwise the full weight of the financial regulations 3112(2) should be applied, forwarding evidence of action for verification.”
Reacting to the allegation, the Permanent Secretary said the Embassy initially did not have treasury book 6A as revenues were paid directly to the federal government Independent Revenue Account and maintained with a bank in Israel.
He also said there was no loss of revenue and have confirmed that the revenue has been paid and the appropriate statutory form is also being used by the mission.
Responding, Oke said: ”$1,046,258.59, that is the money that we want evidence of remission to John Chase Morgan. So the documents you showed us is just $107,000. So accepting without conceding, that you had a hard time in Israeli and based on that, you used the IGR to cure those problems. But when you got the releases, we expect that the releases should go to CRF, to go to this Chase Morgan bank.
”So we are now asking you to show proof that you actually remitted. If you removed the $107,000, the one you see us to check on page 26, except you have several of this evidence if you add them up whether it will be equivalent to $1 million $187,000.”
The Committee frowned at the refusal of the Embassy to remit the internally generated revenues for three years to the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF).
They also queried the multiple alterations in the account, saying that there was some kind of tampering with the figures.
Consequently, the chairman of the committee said they want the documentary evidence to show that the sum of $187,000 was returned to the revenue account.
In a similar vein, the lawmakers also queried why the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs paid on monthly basis some unidentified staff and former political appointees as stipulated by the Auditor-General of the Federation in 2014.
The committee thereby requested the nominal roll and the bank schedule of Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
They also resolved to summon the Director in charge of the IPPIS in Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning who is in charge to explain if the people are truly the full staff of the office of the Accountant General or not, as well as the political appointees.
”Our ruling will be the clerk should do a letter to the Director of IPPIS in the office of the Accountant General and ask him to come and explain to us if the staff that appeared on the bank schedule of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are indeed their personnel. And from where do they get their salaries because we have to find out whether they are being paid double salaries? So we have to deal with this issue exhaustively. We have to exhaust all the issues so that we can come into a conclusion on the matter,” Oke added.