NBET, House Committee Disagree over Alleged N1.2bn Fraud

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Iyobosa Uwugiaren in Abuja

The Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Plc (NBET) has disagreed with the House of Representatives’ Committee on Power over its query to the Managing Director/CEO of NBET, Dr. Marily Amobi, to explain accumulated alleged unapproved expenditure of over N1.2billion.

In a letter dated July 3, 2020 signed by the Chairman, House of Representatives’ Committee on Power, Hon. Magaji Da’u Aliyu, and addressed to the MD/CEO of NBET, the committee claimed that during its spot assessment of the company it observed alleged procurement breaches and misconduct by Amobi, and asked her to respond to the alleged infraction.

The issues raised by the House Committee range from procurement of return flight ticket for Amobi to attend official assignment in Washington D.C; monthly payment allowances to four officials of Department of State Security (DSS) and nine Nigeria Police Force (NPF) officers; engagement of various legal consultants; procurement of vehicles; procurement of vendors for information technology-related items and other issues running into over N1.2 billion.

However, responding to the query in a letter with reference number: NBET/CEO/NASS/2020/322 and addressed to the Chairman, House Committee on Power, the NBET CEO vehemently disagreed with many of the issues raised.

For instance, on the issue of return ticket, Amobi said that the trip to Washington D.C was at the instance of the Senate President, who directed her to accompany the Senate Committee Chairman for the meeting based on professional advice.

“Appropriate approvals were sought and obtained from the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and the Honourable Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning (HMFB&NP), and chairman of the board of directors, before the MD/CEO departed Abuja,’’Amobi stated.

She added that the SGF determined and provided appropriate air fare, as well as per diem for the trip; and the bulk pack figure was paid to her, while she purchased the ticket; paid for any changes there-off, the hotel accommodation and other incidental expenses.

She attached all the necessary voucher and documents to support the expenditures.

On the monthly payment of allowances to the security agents, Amobi stated that the number of the security personnel, which the police and the DSS deemed appropriate to deploy to NBET as an organisation for protection, was depended on the level and category of threats the security agencies determined.

She added, “The chairman is invited to graciously consider sending an investigative inquiry to the leadership of the NPF and DSS asking to be provided with the basis for the amount of security deployed and the overarching objectives.

“I trust that the responses from the leadership of both organisations would be more credible and useful to answering the pertinent questions the petitioners raised for the consideration of the committee chairman.’’

Responding to the engagement of various legal consultants, the NBET CEO explained that some of the procurement the petitioners raised did not happen in NBET, saying the company does not have any documentation on them.

‘’Furthermore, NBET did not expend the sum of N112 million between October and December 2019 to engage lawyers to either institute cases or defend NBET even as the issues relate only to the MD/CEO herself as in the case of libel against the media houses,’’ she further explained.

Amobi insisted that the procurements for legal consultants were done through competitive procurement processes, adding the approval of the Attorney-General of Federation and Minister of Justice in some cases were not necessary.

However, she said that the Attorney-General of the Federation approved the engagement of Babalakin & Co for suits against six media houses

On the procurement of the operational utility vehicles, she explained that the company complied with the statutory procurement and financial regulation process, saying that the approvals for the purchase of the cars were within the approval limits of the Parastatal Tenders Board (PTB).