Deji Elumoye in Abuja
The Senate has queried the Ministry of Petroleum Resources over the payment of N98.4 million for the printing of leaflets for awareness programme for the Petroleum Industrial Bill (PIB) without due process.
Its committee on Public Accounts has, therefore, accepted the 2015 Auditor-General of the Federation’s Report, which exposed mismanagement of public funds in the Ministry of Petroleum Resources.
The report stated that contrary to the procurement process, an entry in the cash book for N98.4 million was made in favour of a company for printing of leaflets for awareness campaign programme for the PIB.
“There was no formal award of contract and it was also observed that the approval for the payment was via memo presented by the Director (Press) to Ministerial Tender Board meeting of 9th and 11th October 2013,” the report said.
The report added that the permanent secretary had been requested to take disciplinary measures against the erring officers in line with provisions of extant regulations.
But the Ministry of Petroleum, in a written response, said: “Adequate publicity was made: M/S Dangrace and Partners Limited were selected based on proven capabilities and competence.
“It should be stated that veritable costing proposals were submitted and approved before the authorisation for the award and production of Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) leaflets. The department complied with necessary rule and procedure.”
However, the Auditor-General in another query called to question the payment of N39.7 million to the account of two staff of the ministry for project monitoring in 2014.
The query noted that contrary to the e-payment policy of the federal government, the total sum of N39.7 million was paid to 178 staff of the ministry for project monitoring and evaluation in 2014.
“Instead of direct payment to individual accounts, the disbursement was paid into two accounts vide PV. Nos. MPR/CAP/828/2014 and MPR/CAP/826/2014 of 02/12/14.
“It was curious that 178 officers in the division of the ministry could be involved in project monitoring and evaluation at the same time. Other irregularities observed included duplication of officers names, duplication of locations, monitoring of projects outside the statutory purview of the ministry and its parastatals, payment of Duty Travel Allowance (DTA) and other travelling allowances to staff for monitoring parastatals located in Abuja,” it stated.
The report said there was no evidence presented for audit review by the M & E division for the project monitoring exercise carried out by the 178 officers despite the payment of N1.4 million to coordinating secretariat for such purpose.
The report also said that the expenditure couldn’t be accepted as a legitimate charge against public funds.
But the petroleum ministry, in a written response, said: “The two staff were appointed as the project accountants for the project. People were grouped and assigned to various projects for prudence and accountability.
“Reports were submitted to the appropriate department. Due process and procedure were followed in the best interest of the service.
“Duplication of officers’ names and locations were due to officers visiting different places after grouping. No officer was paid DTA for monitoring parastatals within Abuja. “
Not satisfied with the response of the ministry to the queries, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Account, Senator Matthew Urhoghide, has written to the ministry asking that the indicted officers be made to return the money to the Federation Account.