By Levinus Nwabughiogu, Abuja

Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the House of Representatives has said it is temporarily relocating to Lagos to launch an investigation into an alleged indebtedness by port operators to the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) amounting to over 800 million dollars.

The Committee Chairman, Wole Oke, who made the disclosure, said the idea of temporary relocation was informed by the need to take the investigation close to the NPA.

He said: “The parliament will move the hearing to Lagos where all parties will meet with us between December 8 and 9.

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“We hope to resolve this issue once and for all. 800 million dollars is not small money.”

PTAD

In a related development, the Committee also commenced probe of the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD) for failing to employ new staff after requesting and receiving some budgetary allocation.

The Committee accused the agency of lying to the government and the parliament about the employment, denying other agencies of government money that could have been used for other purposes.

The investigation followed an audit query by the office of the Auditor-General of the federation.

The query stated that “in 2020, the agency’s allocation for personnel cost went up to N1.8 billion, reducing to N1.6 billion in 2021, going up again to N1.9 billion in 2022, even when the workers have not been employed.”

A senior officer of the agency, Abdullah Abubakar who represented the Executive Secretary, Dr. Chioma Ejikeme, explained that the agency budgeted N1.7 billion for personnel cost in 2018 because it initially planned to employ new staff.

He added that the balance of N310 million was returned to the treasury.

He said, “Our personnel is handled by IPPIS. The balance of the money budgeted was returned to the CRF because we did not employ the staff that we needed to employ.

“Till date, we are still in need of those workers, but we are yet to get a waiver from the Head of Service to employ.”

But in his reaction, the chairman of the committee, Oke said the agency lied to the parliament.

“The Head of Service and the Federal Character Commission must have carried out a needed assessment on your agency leading to your request for funds to employ.

“We gave you that money, but you failed to use it. The complain of most agencies have been lack of funds, but here, you got the funds you requested for and yet, failed to use it.

“You have lied to the parliament through the President and has denied other agencies the use of that money.

“So, we need to see the assessment that was carried out on your agency that led to the parliament giving you this money.

“By not using this money for what it was meant for, you have committed an offence against the Appropriation Act. But we will give you a right of fair hearing to explain to us the reason(s) for your action,” Oke said.

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