● Says no more business as usual
The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the House of Representatives on Monday gave the Chief Executive officers of the Nigeria Communications Satellite Limited (NIGCOMSAT), Nigeria Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPREC), Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA) and three others a 72-hour aultimatum within which to appear before it over various audit queries amounting to about N20. 853 billion raised against the Agencies by the Office of the Auditor General of the Federatiom
Other agencies affected by the order are the Rural Electrification Agency (REA), Nigeria Export Promotion Council (NEPC), and the Federal University of Petroleum Studies, Effurum, Delta State.
The Committee being chaired by Hon. Bamidele Salam (PDP-Osun) made the resolution following the absence of the Agencies at a sitting organized by the Committee to address the audit queries raised against them .
At the commencement of the sitting, the Committee Chairman lamented that the agencies due to appear before it refused to take advantage of the invitation to defend themselves concerning the audit queries against them and deliberately stayed away
The six agencies are part of the 60 agencies listed in the first phase of audit investigation and scheduled to appear before the House Committee on Public Accounts to defend the queries issued against them
However , the Chairman disclosed that the Rural Electrification Agency sent a letter to the committee explaining that it could not honour the invitation because its Chief Executive, who is the accounting officer, was out of the country.
Consequently, the members of the committee expressed dismay over the action of the agencies, describing it as total disregard for the parliament and the Constitution of the Land which should be sanctioned in line with the powers of the parliament which created the Agencies.
Hon. Ademurin Kuye who was the first to criticize the attitudes of the Agencies towards parliament invitations stated that the parliament was an important institution of government that should be taken seriously while also taking exception to the action of the agencies.
Hon Kuye who said that he had to reschedule his flight from Lagos on Monday morning because of the interaction with the agencies said if members would take the parliament serious, Agencies established by the parliament must take the institution serious.
He said the agencies must be reminded that the parliament ” is vested with the power of investigation and summon by the Constitution” and lashed out at the Agencies for being serial violators of the constitution.
He pointed out that the agencies had problem with the Public Account Committee of the 9th Assembly and that they were unable to defend the various audit queries against them throughout the life span of the Assembly.
He said the Rural Electrification Agency had the 2017 audit query pending against it as it was unable to defend allegation of an alleged fraud amounting to over N2 billion level against it by the OAUGF
Hon Kuye also alleged that the PAC of the 9th Assembly had a running battle with with NIGCOMSAT over the 469 million dollars Chinese loan taken by the company which they failed to defend until the expiration of the tenure of the last Assembly, while NEPZA failed to defend allegation of being a conduit pipe to siphon some 15 million dollars.
In his own contribution , Hon. Billy Osaweru said that even though he was a first timer in the House, it was obvious that something was wrong, adding that what happened in the 9th Assembly must not be allowed to happen in the 10th Assembly.
Hon. Osaweru said that there must be punitive action taken against agencies who refuse to honour invitation from the parliament especially when it was an opportunity for them to defend themselves.
He said the House should exercise its powers under the constitution and issue a warrant of arrest against the Chief Executive of the agencies.
Hon. Aliyu Bappa Misau stressed that when an audit query is issued, it gives those concern the opportunity to defend the query, adding that for the queries to form part of the audit report is an indication that the agencies refused to respond to them.
He said the invitation from the parliament was a second opportunity for the agenciea to come and respond to the queries, expressing regret that the agencies have constantly refused to respond to invitation from the parliament.
However Hon. Femi Bamishile appealed to members to give the agencies another opportunity to appear and defend the queries against them.
The committee however voted to give them 72 hours to appear before the committee to defend the audit queries, warning that failure to appear, the committee will be forced to take drastic action.
The Chairman of the Committee Hon Bamidele Salam urged all the MDAs to wake up from their slumber and honour invitations on Audit queries as the Committee would do everything under the law to ensure accountability in the funds being appropriated to them by the National Assembly, saying that it was not going to be business as usual in the 10th Assembly for the MDAs
While the REA is to defend unapproved expenditure amounting to about N1.405 billion, NIGCOMSAT is to defend an unapproved expenditure of N1.048 billion while NEPC is to defend an expenditure of N264. 50 million.
The NUPRC is to defend an unexplained expenditure of N275. 626 billion and 35.738 million dollars which it failed to transfer to the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation, while NEPZA and FUPRE are to come and defend unexplained expenditure of N15. 626 billion and N2. 235 billion, respectively.