By Chidi Nkwopara
The Judicial Commission of Inquiry on Contracts awarded from June 2011 to May 2019, Tuesday, ordered the State Auditor General and the Auditor General for Local Government, to submit within seven days, their audited reports for years under review.
The Commission’s Chairman, Justice Benjamin Iheka, gave the marching order after the two top officials gave startling revelations of how state funds were used with impunity.
Making his submissions during the sitting, the State Auditor General, Mr. Ebenezer Osuji, told the Commission that his office was neither aware of the contracts awarded by the state government nor had any document relating to any contract awarded by the government in the years under reference.
His words: “All contracts documents awarded by the state government ought to be sent to the State Auditor General’s Office, as well as the Attorney General’s Office, but within the period under review, this provision was largely observed in the breach.
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“If any contract was awarded, my office did not know about it and we could not have audited what we never knew that existed. The Ministry of Works, on inquiry, usually my office that they were not aware of any contract awarded by the state government. Only the Government House were in a position to give contract details.”
On how he generated the data that formed part of the annual reports, Osuji said: “Our reports were obviously watery. There were no reliable records. We kept making demands from the Governor’s Principal Secretary, Dr. Paschal Obi, but he never obliged. The former Accountant-General simply acted as a Government House cashier. All monies she released to the Government House were bulk sums, which she said, she didn’t know what they were used for.”
In his own submissions, the Auditor General for Local Government, Mr. Osita Reuben Nwosu, confirmed that the Finance and General Purpose Committee of local governments, have a spending limit of N500,000, adding that he usually issued audit query to any local council that violated this financial instruction.
Nwosu affirmed that he issued queries at various times, to all the 27 local governments, within the period under review.
“Most of the local governments responded and as prescribed by the relevant law, we forwarded them to the State House of Assembly. We never got to know what they did with the yearly audit reports”, Nwosu said.
While saying that the reports included names of people that collected government funds without mandatorily retiring them, Nwosu, however, lamented that several contracts were irregularly awarded.
“Some contracts were irregularly awarded, which we rightly queried because they were illegally used to siphon government funds”, Nwosu told the Commission.
Similarly, the Government House Director of Information, Mr. Kennedy Amanze, narrated how a contract committee, headed by the Governor’s Principal Secretary, Dr. Paschal Obi, acted as “a contract task force”.
His words: “We considered state projects but because of the task force nature of the committee, due process was not followed. I am not aware that the State Tenders Board functioned simultaneously with our committee.
There were no guidelines for us to follow and our activities were unconventional.
“We only assembled, documented and shortlisted proposals for contracts. We never verified the identities of the companies that bided for jobs. It was not clear how the Principal Secretary gathered the companies that did the job. We only adopted the shortlisted companies, incorporated them in our minutes and signed.”
When Justice Iheka asked if it would be right to describe the committee as a rubber stamp, Amanze said “yes”.