* Panel sustains query of mismanagement of N20m in finance ministry
Chuks Okocha in Abuja
The Senate has exposed how the Ministerial Tenders Board of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources paid N718 million to 11 corporate bodies for different services rendered without documents.
The alleged financial mismanagement was as a result of the 2015 Auditor General Report submitted to the Senate Committee on Public Account chaired by Senator Matthew Urhoghide.
Findings showed that the contract was awarded in 2014 when the former Head of Service, Danladi Kifasi, was the Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Petroleum Resources.
Among the companies that benefited from the consultancies are Amho Nigeria Ltd (Contract for consultancy service on critical stakeholders workshop on Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) Policy Initiative at cost of N97.9million, Mimo Industrial Ltd (Contract for Consultancy Service on Project management for Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) Policy Framework Development) at cost of N99.4 million, Peds Global Ventures (Contract for consultancy service on surveillance and monitoring of environmental restoration) at cost of N79.4 million, Crown-Tech Services Ltd ( Contract for consultancy service on capacity building for engineers to acquire tools surveillance and monitoring of environmental restoration) at cost of N82.2 million, DayLight Engeering Nigeria Ltd, (Contract for consultancy service on survey of oil and gas production and utilization in Nigeria) at cost of N48.1 million and Redbrick Consultants Ltd (Course fees oil and gas) at contract sum of N26.6 million.
It was discovered that about five consultancies were awarded on July 14, 2014 while project on training was awarded on October 17, 2014 and the payment was made in the 2015 budget.
The Auditor General of the Federation in its report, stated that no further documents regarding payments were produced despite repeated request, adding the ministry failed to produce documents explaining and supporting the genuineness of the payments.
The query read: “An expenditure entry to N718.9 million was made in the cashbook as payment to 11 corporate bodies for different services rendered.
“Surprisingly, no further documents regarding this payment were produced for audit review despite repeated request, contrary to Financial Regulation 110 which states that “Auditor-General or his representative shall at all reasonable times have free access to books of accounts files, safes, security documents and other records and information relating to the account of all federal ministries /extra-ministerial offices and other arms of government or units.”
“Expenditure of this magnitude without documents explaining and supporting the genuineness of these payments cannot be accepted as legitimate charges against public funds.
“The permanent secretary has been requested to produce all documents recover and pay to treasury the sum of N718.9 million being expenditure un-accounted for and furnish recovery particulars for verification. “
The Ministry of Petroleum in its written submission presented by the Permanent Secretary, Bitrus Bako Nabasu, however said: “Relevant documents were attached to facilitate raising of payment vouchers and the total amount paid to contractors was N494.1 million.”
But the Chairman of the committee, Senator Urhoghide, and representative of Auditor General of the Federation, Eyitayo Agesin, said that documents attached to the vouchers were not enough to justify payment expenditure of that magnitude.
Urhoghide specifically ordered a refund of N718.9 million to the Federation Account by the government officials involved in the awarding of the contracts
In related development, the Senate Panel on Public Account has sustained a query of mismanagement of about N20 million against the Federal Ministry of Finance.
The lawmakers decided to sustain the query after the ministry ignored series of invitations extended to it by the Auditor General of the Federation with no response.
The chairman of the committee wondered how could a ministry of Finance be avoiding to give account on the money spent, adding that the committee has sent invitations to the ministry on the issue with no response.
He said the committee had no other option than to sustain the Auditor General query against the ministry.
The query reads, “A contract worth N2,477,900.00 was awarded by the Ministry. It was observed that the contractor submitted a quotation before the invitation to bid for the contract was approved. This is contrary to the contract process when a bidding invitation is first sent to the contractor before the quotation. Also the contractor’s tax clearance certificate was not provided by the contractor.
“The permanent secretary has been requested to explain these lapses.
“A sum of N2,768,760.54 which is equivalent of $13,919.00 was overpaid as estacode allowances to some staff of the ministry on foreign tours. This overpayment was done as a result of transit days which were included in their estacode allowances.
“However, this is contrary to Sections 130106 – 130108 of the Public Service Rules which stipulates that such allowances are granted to enable staff pay for lodging and feeding expenses during official hours duly approved by the approving authority.
“The permanent secretary has been requested to compel all the staff involved in the irregularity to refund the excess estacode allowances to the sub-treasury and forward the receipt to my office for confirmation.
“A total amount of N16,858,800.00 cash advances granted to some staff of the ministry between October and December, 2015 were not retired, contrary to Financial Regulation 420.
“The permanent secretary has been asked to compel the affected staff to retire the cash advances without further delay or deduct the amounts from the involved staff’s salary en-bloc and furnish my office with the retirement or deduction particulars for verification.”