From right: President Buhari and Minister of Science and Tech, Ogbonnaya Onu…….. not a laughing matter
…Auditor General discovers another missing N556.2m
…Science & Tech ministry, five agencies ordered to refund mismanaged N106m
…As former AGF allegedly misapplied N450m rice levy
By Emmanuel Elebeke
The Auditor General of the Federation, AuGF, has discovered another N556.2 million missing in the Federation Account.
Last week, Hi-Tech reported exclusively how the Auditor General, in his audited report of the federation account, accused the National Identity Management Commission, NIMC, mismanaged about N3.5bn.
The AuGF, Anthony Ayine, in a recent annual report of the programmes and performances of ministries and agencies in the year ended December 2015, has also discovered that the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology and five other agencies were caught in the web of mismanaging a whooping N106 million.
The AuGF also indicted the Accountant General of the Federation, AGF, for allegedly misapplying the rice levy fund by granting part of it as a loan to the Nigeria Communications Satellite, NigComSat, for satellite insurance renewal, when the loan should have gone to farmers.
He, however, ordered the AGF to recover the N450 million loans as quickly as possible and put back into the coffers of the government.
According to the AuGF report, NigComSat’s N450 m loan was part of the N37.5 billion withdrawn from 10 percent Rice Levy and granted to various beneficiaries between 2013 and 2014, contrary to the established objectives of the fund. To the Auditor General, this amounts to misapplication of funds.
The loan according to the report was also contrary to the purpose of the fund which is to finance the local production of rice in Nigeria and the beneficiaries are the local rice producers, through the National Food Reserve Agency.
It also added that the bank statements, cash book, mandates and statement of affairs in respect of this account for the year 2015 was not provided for audit as at the time of the audit in 2016.
According to the report, AuGF had mandated the AGF, Ahmed Idris, to recover the fund and ensure that the evidence of recovery be sent to his office for verification, even though he took over office on the 25th of June of the same year from his predecessor, Jonah Otunla, who resigned a week earlier.
He also warned that further payments from these special funds should be strictly applied for the purpose they were created and ensure stoppage of further withdrawals from the accounts without a resolution of the National Assembly.
Meanwhile, it was found that the Ministry of Science and Technology, during the audit of its records and books of account, was found to have granted the total sum of N7.7 million as advance to one officer vide payment voucher for the purpose of printing programmes for NCST 13th and 14th edition but were yet to be retired after the completion of the programme, despite the fact that the advances were beyond the prescribed limit for procurement of goods and services.
The Ministry was said to have made a payment of N9.1 million to various contractors for supply contracts awarded in 2008, but paid in the year 2015, contrary to Financial Regulation 422.
During the verification of non-current assets of the ministry, it was equally discovered that two motor vehicles with Reg. No. M50-10FG and M50-12FG were not seen and their whereabout not explained.
The report, however, noted that the Permanent Secretary had been requested to ensure the immediate retirement of these advances or deduct the said amount from the salary of the officer and furnish the AuGF office with the recovery particulars.
The National Space Research Development Agency, NASRDA, Abuja, was not spared in the imbroglio as the findings further showed that the agency under the Ministry of Science and Technology was found culpable in misapplication of N42.7 million also in 2015.
According to the report, the agency, during the periodic check carried out on the accounts of the NASRDA, paid a total sum of N17,654,973.00 (N17million) to 9 members of staff as pocket expenses for direct purchase of stores and other services in excess of N200, 000.00, contrary to the provision of Financial Regulations and Circular Ref. No. TRY A28/B2/2009 of 24th March 2009, which specifically state that all local procurement of stores and services costing above N200,000.00 shall be made through local purchase order or Job order.
This action, the report said, also deprived the government of revenue in the form of WHT and VAT amounting to N1.8 million.
NASRDA, was also found to have made cash advances to six beneficiaries amounting to N6,550,544.00 to carry out purchases and these advances had not been retired as at the time of the audit.
The agency was also accused of granting subsequent advances when previous ones were yet to be retired by the beneficiaries. These, according to the report, contravened the provision of Financial Regulation 1420.
In the light of this, the Director-General of the agency is said to have requested to explain why the extant regulations were not followed and to refund the said amounts.
Further investigation by the AuGF revealed that the Centre for Satellite Technology Development, CSTD, a subsidiary of NASRDA paid a total sum of N4,100,350.00 from its capital allocation fund as touring advance for a member of staff to attend the 34th meeting of the Joint Task + P4-5-6-7 Radio communication conference 2015 in Geneva, Switzerland for N3,100,350.350.00 and N1,000,000.00, totaling N4,100,350.00.
These payments, according to the report, amounted to misapplication of the capital allocation, without evidence of approval for virement.
Also, the Director-General is said to have been asked to recover these payments from the staff and forward recovery particulars for verification.
In a similar vein, the verification indicated that the Project Development Institute, PRODA Emene- Enugu also violated the extant rules in public finance management to the tune of N14.4 million.
The audit showed that the institute, apart from not submitting its audited Financial Statements since 2008 to the Auditor-General for the Federation for vetting and necessary comments as at the time of this periodic checks exercise in 2015, as required by law, it made a payment totaling N9,854,542.44 (Nine million, eight hundred and fifty-four thousand, five hundred and forty-two naira, forty-four kobo) were made without pre-payment audit. This contravenes the provision of Financial Regulation 1705 of 2009 which requires 100 percent prepayment audit of all checked and passed vouchers.
The report also discovered that the sum of N3,574,800.00 was expended by the institute in catering for various expenses of the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology, contrary to the directive contained in an Extant Circular, No. 59515/8.22/T4/1/401 dated 25th August, 1998 which mandates ministries not to source for their expenses from agencies which they are supervising.
Other payments made by the institute in contravention of the extant rules include N342,000.00 and N450,000.00 payment for over-time allowances totalling 792,000.00.
In the course of the audit exercise, the National Cereals Research Institute, Badeggi was found to have mismanaged the sum of N19.6 million in the same year under review.
It was observed that the Institute granted salary advances totalling N4,413,359, to some members of staff who were neither on transfer out of their present location nor employed by the Institute during the period under review.
This action is said to have contravened the provisions of Financial Regulation 1406 to 1408 which specifies the conditions under which salary advance may be granted.
It was also observed that the Institute paid N10,293,667.00 to persons other than the ultimate beneficiaries.
Upon enquiry, the audit team gathered that those payments were intended to be transmitted to the final beneficiaries by the payees in whose names those payments were made.
It was further observed that in all cases, no evidence was provided to confirm that the intended beneficiaries received the payments. It was observed that the agency engaged in various payment vouchers on which payments were made from the Pension Account totalling N4,904,882.98.
This practice is considered a violation of Federal Treasury Circular TRY/A8&B8/2008 OAGF/CAD/06/VOL.II dated 22nd October, 2008.
However, when Hi-Tech sought the opinion of the affected agencies, the Head of Corporate Affairs, NASRDA, Dr. Felix Ale said the agency had responded adequately to the query issued by the Auditor General of the Federation.
According to him, the indictment emanated from the failure of the agency to attach relevant documents to defend the missing funds.
Ale, who frowned at the findings of the report, said there was no way the agency could have misapplied such funds when it is being starved of funds to actualize its set objectives.
He called on the general public to disregard the report as necessary documents had been forwarded to the office of the Auditor General of the Federation to defend the allegation.
Also, our findings from the ministry of science and technology showed that the ministry had equally responded to the query requesting a refund or explanations.
on how the missing funds were expended. Efforts to reach NigComSat and other agencies involved in the saga proved abortive.