An Auditor-General’s 2015 report has exposed how the Ministerial Tenders Board of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources allegedly paid N718 million to 11 firms for different services rendered without documents.
The audit report is currently being considered by the Senate Committee on Public Accounts, chaired by Matthew Urhoghide (Edo South).
The report shows that the contracts were awarded in 2014 when the former Head of Service (HoS), Danladi Kifasi, was the Permanent Secretary in the ministry.
It also revealed that five consultancy jobs 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 Auditor-General of the Federation (AuGF) alleged that the ministry failed to produce documents to support the genuineness of the payments, despite repeated requests.
He thus raised a query on the suspected anomaly.
The query reads: “An expenditure entry of N718.9 million was made in the cashbook as payment to 11 corporate bodies for different services rendered.
“Surprisingly, no further documents regarding this payment were produced for audit review, despite repeated requests, 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, safes, 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, recover and pay to treasury the sum of N718.9 million being expenditure un-accounted for and furnish recovery particulars for verification.”
In its written submission by its Permanent Secretary, Bitrus Bako Nabasu, the ministry said: “Relevant documents were attached to facilitate raising of payment vouchers and the total amount paid to contractors was N494.1 million.”
But Senate Committee Chairman Urhoghide and a representative of the AuGF, Eyitayo Agesin, insisted that the documents attached to the vouchers were not sufficient to justify payment expenditure of that magnitude.
Urhoghide ordered refund of N718.9 million to the Federation Account by the officials involved in the award of the contracts.
Also, the committee sustained a query on the mismanagement of about N20 million against the Federal Ministry of Finance.
The lawmakers sustained the query after the ministry ignored series of invitations extended to it by the AuGF.
Urhoghide wondered why the Ministry of Finance could not account for money already spent.
The Edo South senator stressed that the committee had also extended invitations to the Ministry of Finance on the issue without response.
He said the committee had no other option than to sustain the Auditor-General’s query against the ministry.
The query reads: “A contract worth N2,477,900.00 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, which is equivalent of $13,919.00, was overpaid as estacode allowances to some workers 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 stipulate that such allowances are granted to enable workers 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 workers 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 N16,858,800.00 cash advances granted to some workers of the ministry between October and December 2015 were not retired, contrary to Financial Regulation 420.
“The Permanent Secretary has been asked to compel the affected workers to retire the cash advances without further delay or deduct the amounts from the involved staff’s salary en-bloc and furnish my office with the retirement or deduction particulars for verification.
“These issues raised have been taken up with the Permanent Secretary and his response is still being awaited.” (The Nation)