*No, all interests remitted to CRF -MD

Senate has launched an investigation into the alleged unremitted N1.5 billion by the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Company, NBET being accrued accumulated interests from investments in the Nigerian Treasury Bills.

The alleged fraud was uncovered by the Senate Committee on Public Accounts chaired by Senator Matthew Urhoghide when the Managing Director of the company, Dr. Nnaemeka Ewelukwa appeared before the committee to defend the query raised by the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation, OAuGF on the issue.

Eweluka, however, claimed that the then Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iwella gave approval to the company to invest in the treasury bill and spent the interest accrued from the investment in Treasury Bills.

But, when the lawmakers looked into the approval letter by the Minister of Finance critically, it was discovered that she said “NBET is hereby granted authorization to utilize the interest earned and accruing on its investment in Treasury Bills to boost NBET’s capitalization provided that the NBET does not utilize such monies for any recurrent expenditures.”

The Minister, in the letter dated March 6, 2015, in response to the request for the retention of the interest accruing on NBET’s investment in the Treasury Bills.

The query issued by Auditor General reads: “Various analysis carried out on the investment made by NBET, it was noticed that it stopped the remittance of accrued interest on the investment in Nigerian Treasury Bills as well as that on sitting balances on the various accounts maintained by the company in April 2014.

“This was as a result of a letter written from the office of the Coordinating Minister of the Economy which was dated March 6, 2015, which purportedly gave NBET retroactive authorization to retain all interest from 2014.

“The outstanding interest unremitted to consolidated revenue stands at N1. 5billion.

“The audit team observed the following issues with respect to the retention of interest.”

In its response, the NBET claimed that all interest earned on sitting balance was remitted to the Consolidated Revenue Fund, CRF as the approval received did not cover this component.

“The interest earned from inception till December 2014 have all been remitted.

But the chairman of the committee tackled the Managing Director that only N529 million was remitted, leaving about N986 million unremitted to the CRF.

Urhoghide said it is glaring that the query raised by the Auditor General was valid asking the committee to give the company up till next week Tuesday to defend the outstanding unremitted N986 million.

“The query was raised by the Auditor General in 2015 up till the time of filing this report, NBET was able to provide receipts of N529 million out of N1.5 billion unremitted interest from an investment in the Treasury Bills.

“The balance of about N986 million is yet to be remitted to the Consolidated Revenue Fund, CRF.

The Office of the Auditor-General in its report stated: “The request for a waiver seeking to retain all interest made to the Ministry of Finance by NBET was dated 2nd February 2015 as at this date and before the approval was given by the Minister of Finance in March 2015, NBET ought to have remitted earned interest before the complaint.

“It would appear that the Management of NBET deliberately withheld all the accrued interest in Investment Treasury Bills and sitting balance in anticipation of perceived approval.”

In addition to allegations of sleaze in the NBET, the lawmakers uncovered how the management of the company paid illegal allowances to its staff such as holiday allowance, communication allowance, and 13th-month salary.

The query reads: “The National Salaries Income and Wages Commission through its circular dated 19th September 2013, approved compensation and benefits structure for NBET contrary to this, NBET created additional unapproved compensation and benefits policy document

“This gave rise to the payment of illegal allowances to its staff such as holiday allowance, communication allowance, and 13th-month salary, contrary to the approved salaries and allowances in the public service.

“There was no evidence to show that the additional compensation and benefits policy document was approved by the company.

“The Managing Director was asked to provide the government approval instituting these allowances in the company or payback N47.4million to the federal government coffee.”

Eweluka, however, was able to present any document to justify illegal approval earned by the staff of the company.

Also, the Senate queried the NBET overpayment of N14 million for courses and conferences allegedly held both locally and internationally but failed to provide evidence to show that the conference paid for was duly attended.

The company also failed to provide evidence that the conference paid for was duly attended.