By Deji Elumoye
The Senate has queried a former Nigerian Ambassador to Israel over the payment of $134,000 to him by the Foreign Affairs Ministry for the salaries of his domestic servants.
The envoy was said to have employed the domestic servants at the Nigerian House in Tel Aviv, Israel in 2014.
The query by the Senate Committee on Public Accounts headed by Senator Mathew Urhoghide was sequel to a petition from the office of the Auditor General of the Federation, asking the committee to investigate the dollars paid into the personal account of the former Ambassador.
The allegation against the former Ambassador was contained in the 2015 petition Auditor General of the Federation submitted to Senate Committee on Public Accounts.
But, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in its written response claimed that cost of hiring of domestic servants was usually higher than what was granted to the Ambassador as allowances for domestic servants especially as it relates to the Israeli minimum wages.
The Auditor General’s petition reads, “The sum of $134, 400.00 was paid directly to an Ambassador during his tenure for domestic servants. The direct payment of domestic staff salary to the Ambassador is contrary to the terms of engagement as spelt out in the appointment letter which insists on domestic staff salary to be included on Mission’s payroll. Therefore the sum of funds has to be refunded.
“The Permanent Secretary has been requested to recover and pay back to chest, the sum $134,400.00 paid directly to the Ambassador, forwarding evidence of recovery for audit verification purposes.
The Foreign Ministry in its written response stated that, “On the grounds of public policy, particularly the provisions of the condition of services of the Ambassadors/Heads of Mission, the Ambassador hired his own domestic servant and security personnel in accordance with the Israeli labour laws and as such, paid their allowances directly from his personal account.
“The cost of such hiring was usually higher than what was granted to him as allowances for domestic servant especially as relates to the Israeli minimum wages.
“He could not have operated effectively at the home front in the Residence without hiring some hands to man the vast grounds, help his wife at home front with the chores which in the case of Tel Aviv post is beehive of activities. If there has been an apparent lapse in the method of payment, it must have been for administrative convenience and nothing else .However, the observation has been duly noted and corrected.”