By Sunday Aborisade, Abuja
The Senate Public Accounts Committee is currently probing officials of the defunct Petroleum Product Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), over N131m they allegedly paid as legal fees to external lawyers despite having competent in-house legal practitioners.
Trouble started when officials of the agency now known as the Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) failed to present documents justifying payment of the N131m to the legal firm.
The Auditor General for the Federation in his 2018 audited report had queried the agency for paying N131m as legal consultancy fees.
The Chairman of the Committee , Senator Mathew Urhoghide had asked the officials of the PPPRA to present the evidence for the payment of N131m as legal consultancy fees to external solicitors.
The lawmakers wondered how the PPPRA paid such huge amount of money paid such amount to external solicitors when the agency had in-house legal department that was competent to handle such cases.
The Panel members also observed that the consent of Attorney General of the Federation was not obtained before the legal fees were agreed upon.
They noted that such action was not in accordance with the extant circular and that there was no evidence of any deliverables in the contract agreement before payment was made
Officials of the PPPRA were, however, unable to present document to justify payment of the N131m as legal consultancy fees to external solicitors.
Instead , the representative of the agency, who is the General Manager Account, Dele Adewumi, told the lawmakers that the agency was in urgent need of continuous legal representation in various cases initiated against the Federal government by Nigerian Labour Congress.
The PPPRA official added the agency considered it more efficient and financial prudent to engage the external solicitors.
Part of the AuGF query read,, ” N131m was paid to staff of Messes Ahmed Uwais and co. Legal Practitioners for retainership and consultancy service from January 1 to December 2017
“To ensure probity and accountability in management of public’s funds and to ensure prudence and control of legal services provided by private legal practitioners for government matters, the office of the Solicitors General of the Federation issued a circular Ref No SGF/PS/CIR/624/1 if 1st July 2003 seeking the consent of the Honorable Attorney General of the Federation prior to engagement and payment external solicitors.”