By Henry Umoru, Abuja

THE Senate has uncovered forgery of signatures of participants in payment of over N208 million in the zonal skill acquisition organized by the Ministry of Labour.

According to the Senator Matthew Urhoghide-led Senate Committee on Public Accounts, the programme was organized in all the six zones of the Federation in 2021 with N35 million for each zone, apart from South-East where  N32 million was voted for.

And the fund used for the programme was drawn from Service Wide Vote (SWV).

The SWV  has become subject of investigation by the Senate Public Accounts due to failure to subject the expenditure to the scrutiny of Auditor General of the Federation Office before expenditure.

During the presenting of  the lists of participants to Senate Public Accounts Committee, the members  observed the few persons signed for participants to collect their stipends in the six geo-political zones as the Ministry failed to make available the phone numbers of participants  of the skill acquisition programme.

In his remarks, Senator Urhoghide who  wondered how  the officials paid millions of naira via cash for programme instead of bank transfers, however observed that the character of the signatures  in participants list made it look the same and not a single person used his name as a signature.

The Committee members who noted that  the Ministry would have used E-payment to pay the participants of training programme, said, “The signatures can’t stand forensic test if we subject to the forensic test.”

On his part, Urhoghide said, “The money ought to have been paid straight into the accounts. You see one person signing for many people. There is clear violation of E-payment.”

However, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Ms Kachollom S. Dajua and officials from the ministry failed to give convincing explanation to the Committee, arguing that due process was follow in paying the participants at the zonal Skill Acquisition Training.

The Ministry collected N2.3 billion from the  Service Wide Vote from 2017 to 2021 out of which N1.146 billion was meant for Capital while N1.162 billion was suppose to be  for recurrent.

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