House Probes PTAD over Failure to Employ New Workers Despite Budgetary Allocation

•Moves $800m port operators’ debt probe to Lagos

Udora Orizu in Abuja

The House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts is currently investigating why the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD) failed to employ workers in 2018 despite money that was appropriated for that purpose by the parliament.

The Committee accused the agency of lying to the government and the parliament and denying other agencies of money that could have been used for such purpose.

According to the audit query raised against the agency by the office of the Auditor General of the Federation, PTAD was given N1.7 billion as personnel cost in 2018, but utilised only N1.4 billion and returned the balance of about N310 million to the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF).

The lawmakers however observed that despite not recruiting the required staff, the agency got the same amount of N1.7 billion as personnel cost in 2019, with the amount spent going up to about N1.6 billion.

According to the query, “in 2020, the agency’s allocation for personnel cost went up to N1.8 billion, it reduced to N1.6 billion in 2021, went up again to N1.9 billion in 2022, even when the workers have not been employed.”

The Chairman of the committee, Hon. Wole Oke declared that something was wrong in the agency, wondering why the personnel cost kept rising and falling even when new staff was employed.

But, a senior officer of PTAD, Abdullahi Abubakar who represented the Executive Secretary, Dr. Chioma Ejikeme explained that the agency budgeted N1.7 billion for personnel cost in 2018, because it initially planned to employ new staff, adding that the balance of N310 million was returned to the treasury.

He explained that the increase in expenditure despite not employing new staff was as a result of promotion of existing workers and adjustments in their salaries in accordance with their new rank.

He said: “Our personnel is handled by IPPIS. The balance of the money budgeted was returned to the CRF because we did not employ the staff that we needed to employ. Till date, we are still in need of those workers, but we are yet to get a waiver from the Head of Service to employ.”

The lawmakers however demanded for an assessment to be carried out on the agency by the Head of Service and the Federal Character Commission on their budgetary request since 2017.

According to the Committee Chairman, “the Head of Service and the Federal Character Commission must have carried out a needed assessment on your agency leading to your request for funds to employ.

“We gave you that money, but you failed to use it. The complain of most agencies have been lack of funds, but here, you got the funds you requested for and yet, failed to use it.

“You have lied to the parliament through the president and has denied other agencies the use of that money. So, we need to seed the assessment that was carried out on your agency that led to the parliament giving you this money.

“By not using this money for what it was meant for, you have committed an offence against the appropriation act. But we will give you a right of fair hearing to explain to us the reason (s) for your action.”

Meanwhile, the Committee has also decided to conduct the investigation into an alleged indebtedness by port operators to the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) amounting to over $800 million in Lagos.

Oke said since the NPA needs to be present alongside the port operators, the committee would take to investigation closer to them.

“The parliament will move the hearing to Lagos where all parties will meet with us at Marriott Hotel in Ikeja between December 8th and 9th. We hope to resolve this issue once and for all. 800 million dollars is not small money,” he said.

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