By Chidi Nkwopara
OWERRI—The Judicial Commission of Inquiry on Contracts was yesterday, told that payments for jobs executed for Imo State government did not pass through the Ministry of Finance.
The former Commissioner of Finance and current member representing Ehime Mbano/Ihitte Uboma/Obowo federal constituency in the National Assembly, Chike Okafor, made the disclosure while answering questions from the witness box.
He said: “I did not know how contractors were paid. The payments did not pass through the Ministry of Finance and I do not know who approved the payments,” Okafor said.
When asked to explain how the state government paid for the construction of 305 school buildings, the former Commissioner said: “It is the State Universal Basic Education Board, SUBEB, that initiated, awarded, supervised and paid for the contracts. The Ministry of Finance had no hand whatsoever, in the contract.”
When asked how N6 billion could have been paid without his ministry knowing, Okafor said: “It is possible that the Accountant-General can and do make payments without the commissioner knowing about it and this happened during my time.”
While insisting that he could not as a Commssioner of Finance, definitively say that he was conversant with all contracts awarded, executed and paid for, during his tenure, Okafor also maintained that the Ministry of Finance was not a contract awarding ministry.
“Payments for road contracts did not pass through the Ministry of Finance. We had implementing ministries. The statutory office that makes payments is the Accountant General’s Office, which is administratively, under my ministry,” Okafor said.
He also told the Judicial Commission that the Accountant General’s Office is statutory and the person holding the office is usually appointed by the governor, stressing that “the Accountant General can take directives from the governor without reference to the commissioner.”