Nigeria’s Senate has indicted the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) over an alleged diversion of N1,075,266,599.06, $2,301,329.54 and €196,257.42 by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).
Apart from asking the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to go after all the indicted public officials, the upper legislative chamber also threatened to expose all government agencies who fail to account for public funds put in their care.
The NPA sum allegedly diverted consisted of local and foreign currencies, meant for the Presidential Implementation Committee on Marine Safety and Security (PICOMSS).
According to a report by the Senate Committee on Public Accounts, the fund was diverted into the NSA account contrary to a February 21, 2007, directive approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC).
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Account, Senator Matthew Urhoghide, while presenting the committee’s 2015 report before the Senate at yesterday plenary, also disclosed that the NPA received a reminder for the settlement of annual PICCOMS contributions from 2008–2012 totalling N238, 948, 138.12, $238,540.80 and €168, 220.64 respectively.
According to the report, “the agency also failed to provide evidence to show that the money was used for marine safety and security as directed by the Federal Ministry of Transport and approved by the Federal Executive Council.”
Accordingly, the Senate panel ordered that the NPA should revert to the PICOMSS account, all monies in local and foreign currencies diverted to the NSA which include the sum of N1,314,214,737.18, $2,539,870.34 and €364,478.06
The Senate committee also recommended that the NPA should refund the sum of $37,672,939.75 to the federation account, meant for contingency provision on the contract for the rehabilitation of the Lagos Harbour moles.
The query submitted to plenary by the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Urhoghide, followed a report by the office of the Auditor General of the federation which revealed that the contract sum of N417,099,309.06 as disbursed by the NPA was not duly approved by the Federal Executive Council, and was also not approved by the Tender Committee of the agency.
The report also accused the agency of refusing to furnish the Federal Executive Council with detailed information on the utilization of the contingency fund before it was approved by FEC.
The committee further urged the Economic And Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) to arrest NPA officials responsible for the infractions.
Senator Urhoghide, in his presentation, also said findings showed that there were “consistent contravention of relevant Constitutional provisions and other Extant Laws by the office of the Accountant-General of the Federation.”
According to him, the late submission of the annual financial statement is a violation of Section 49(1) and (2) of the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA) 2007 and Section 85 (5) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
He disclosed that there were withdrawals of funds by the executive arm from Special Fund Accounts for purposes other than the objectives the funds were created, and without recourse to the National Assembly for authorisation, contrary to Section 80(4) of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
Senator Urhoghide further disclosed that there was the absence of collaboration amongst the two key agencies involved in the management and superintending over of public funds – office of the Auditor-General and the Office of the Accountant-General.
He explained that the lack of cooperation between both offices poses a barrier to efficient, effective and transparent audit process of the nation’s Federation Account.
The ranking Senator, therefore, underscored the need to pass the Audit Service Bill into law, to strengthen and streamline the audit process with a view to ensuring prudence in public finance and transactions.
In his remarks after the presentation of the committee’s report, President of the Senate,
Dr Ahmad Lawan, disclosed that the upper chamber will publish the names of government agencies that have refused to appear before the Public Accounts Committee to defend the interrogations of the Auditor-General for the Federation in the 2015 report.
According to him, any public official that refuses to account for public funds at their disposal must be shown the way out of the office. He said, “This is one of our major responsibilities as a parliament, to hold the executive to account.
And whoever is given the responsibility and the trust of running any agency with public funds must be accountable to the parliament on behalf of the people”.
He said the committee has identified some MDAs who failed to come to the committee after invitation adding that “this Senate will publish the names of these agencies for the public to know.
“This Senate will insist, any public servant or civil servant that is given public fund for public good and has questions to answer and refuse to appear to answer, should have no business being in government.
“Because all of us are supposed to be accountable to the people and, therefore, if someone feels that he is not going to be accountable, then that person has no business remaining in office”
Lawan lamented that most agencies of government have refused to comply with accounting systems put in place by the office of the Accountant-General.
According to him, this is largely responsible for fraudulent transactions by some Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government.
He, therefore, tasked the Public Accounts Committee to ensure that agencies of government comply with the accounting systems and procedures specified by the office of the Accountant-General.
The Senate President further disclosed that the chamber would consider the eventual recommendations of the Public Accounts Committee after it comes up with a document that neatly outlines and summarises them for consideration.
The Upper Chamber, after consideration of the Public Accounts Committee report on the annual report of the Auditor-General for the Federation on the accounts of the Federation for the year ended December 31, 2015, stood it down pending when the committee summarises its recommendations to the Senate.
Deji Elumoye in Abuja