… Sustains query on N20m mismanaged by Finance Ministry

Senate has unraveled how the Ministerial Tenders Board of Ministry of Petroleum Resources paid N718million to 11 corporate bodies for different services rendered without documents.

The alleged financial mismanagement was contained in the 2015 Auditor-General Report submitted to the Senate Committee on Public Accounts chaired by Senator Matthew.

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.

Companies that benefited from the consultancies include Amho Nigeria. Ltd (contract for consultancy service on critical stakeholder’s workshop on Liquiedfied Petroleum Gas, LPG, Policy Initiative at a cost of N97.9million; Mimo Industrial Ltd. (contract for consultancy service on project management for Liquefied Petroleum Gas, LPG, Policy Framework Development at a cost of N99.4 million; and Peds Global Ventures (contract for consultancy service on surveillance and monitoring of environmental restoration) at a cost of N79.4million.

The rest are 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 N82.2million, DayLight Engr; Nigeria Ltd. (contract for consultancy service on a survey of oil and gas production and utilization in Nigeria) at cost of N481million and Redbrick Consultants Ltd. (Course Fees Oil and Gas) at a contract sum of N26.6 million.

It was discovered that about five consultancies were awarded on July 14, 2014, while the project on training was awarded on October 17, 2014, and the payment was made in the 2015 budget.

The query read: “An expenditure entry to N718.9million was made in the cashbook as payment to Eleven Corporate bodies for different services rendered.

“Surprising, 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, saves, 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 to recover and pay to the treasury the sum of N718.9million being expenditure unaccounted 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 the raising of payment vouchers and the total amount paid to contractors was N494.1million.”

But Senator Urhoghide and representative of Auditor General of the Federation, Eyitayo Agesin, said documents attached to the vouchers were not enough to justify payment expenditure of that magnitude.

Urhoghide specifically ordered a refund of N718.9million back to the Federation Account by the government officials involved in the awarding of the contracts

In a related development, the committee has sustained query of mismanagement of about N20million against the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning.

It decided to sustain the query after the ministry ignored a 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 whole Ministry of Finance be avoiding giving an account of the money spent, adding that the committee has sent invitations to the ministry on the issue with no response.

Part of the query read: “A contract worth N2,477,900 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 (Two million, seven hundred and sixty-eight thousand, seven hundred and sixty naira, fifty-four kobo) which is equivalent of $13,919 were overpaid as estacode allowance to some staff members 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 to 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 cash advances granted to some staff members of the ministry between October and December 2015 were not retired, contrary to Financial Regulation 420.”

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