The House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts has demanded full disclosure of the Nigerian Embassy in Israel over the withdrawal of the sum of $1,046,258.99 to pay utility bills in 2014.
Chairman, House Committee on Public Accounts, Hon. Wole Oke disclosed this during the review of the audit queries issued by the office of the Auditor General of the Federation (oAuGF) against Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs between 2013 to 2015.
The Auditor-General also queried the illegal withdrawing of the sum of $858,704 and $187,554 internally generated revenue by the Nigerian Embassy in Israel in respect to the visa and administrative charges from the period of 2013 to 2015.
According to the audit query, the following irregularities were observed: treasury book 6A and revenue booklet were not kept and consequently not made available. Revenue collector registered with details of Treasury 6A and relevant amount were not maintained.
“The revenue cash books were not updated with relevant entries throughout 2014 and 2015. The ordinary register maintained by the Consular section has no treasury receipt and the amount generated for each booklet monthly figures were just recorded without details. All these irregularities violated Financial Regulations 208, 209 and 210 and questions the accountability and transparency of the revenue collection.
The Permanent Secretary has been requested to explain the irregularities in revenue collection and account for the sum of $858,704.50 collected as well as carried out the surcharge of the officer-involved otherwise the full weight of the financial regulations 3112(2) should be applied, forwarding evidence of action for verification,” the query read.
While reacting to the allegation as read by the AuGF official, the Permanent Secretary argued that the Embassy initially “did not have treasury book 6A as revenues were paid directly to Federal Government Independent Revenue Account, and maintained with a bank in Israel.
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“There was no loss of revenue. I believe that this is a serious issue for the Mission but we have confirmed that that revenue has been paid and the appropriate statutory form is also being used by the Mission,” he said.
Unsatisfied by his explanation, Hon. Wole Oke explained that: “$1,046,258.59, that is the money that we want evidence of remission to John Chase Morgan. So the documents you showed us is just $107,000. So accepting without conceding Sir, that you had a hard time in Israeli and based on that, you used the IGR to cure those problems. But when you got the releases, we expect that the releases should go to CRF, to go to this Chase Morgan bank.
“So we are now asking you to show proof that you actually remitted. If you removed the $107,000 the one you see us to check on page 26, except you have several of this evidence if you add them up whether it will be equivalent to $1 million $187,000,” he noted.
The lawmakers also frowned at the refusal of the Embassy to remit the internally generated revenues for three years to the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF), just as they chided Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs for failing to take necessary steps
The lawmakers also queried the multiple alterations reflecting in the account, stressing that: “there was some kind of tampering with the figures side.
Similarly, a member of the Committee, Hon. Mark Gbillah queried the source of the some of the documents presented by the Official which indicated the payment of some.funds to certain individuals, noting that: “this document can as well be produced in Oluwole or printed from any printer, because it doe not give me any clarification as per when they were last paid,” in 2014.
He also underscored the need for a hands-on investigation into an Israeli bank, Leomi in Israel.
“Why I’m saying that is there was a sender – Bank Leomi and Customer – Embassy of Nigeria and an account number specifically written. That means it was not just a transit bank. They had an account in that country they are operating an obviously have signatories for these transfers to be made. For this amount to be kept in that bank.
He also demanded the documentary that the Embassy is operating bank account and it was from there monies were being paid not directly into JP Morgan Chase account.
“That is how come they were able to access money from the revenue account before refunding the same which in our opinion goes against the circular that was written which they also provided.
“I was about referring to hat constitutional provision. You pay directly to the consolidated revenue account so these are issues we need to address.”
To this end, Hon. Ok who demanded documentary evidence on the refund, said: “We want the documentary evidence to show that the sum of $187,000 was returned to the revenue account.”
The lawmakers also queried the basis why the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs paid on monthly basis some unidentified staff and former political appointees as stipulated by the Auditor-General of the Federation in 2014.
Similarly, the Auditor General in the 2014 audit query demanded an explanation on the dead (late) person and retired public servants who were paid in December 2014.
While responding, the official from the office of the Accountant General explained that the IPPIS in the Accountant General’s office monitors the payment under the IPPIS. So these numbers are unique with individuals they are not to be replicated.
“So the other issue of non-staff, that means that those staff who suppose to be on the nominal roll actually not staff of the Foreign Affairs Ministry even though they have their IPPIS number, that means they belong to another organization.
“They were not as at that time staff of Foreign Affairs Ministry that’s why we put non-staff there, they are not our staff as at that time. But going by the IPPIS number, you find out that they may belong to either another pool or another office.”
To this end, the Committee requested for the nominal roll and the bank schedule of Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In his response, the Permanent Secretary affirmed that one of the staff was overpaid for 6 months and that the Ministry wrote the officer to refund the salary while the salaries of other officers were stopped.
In the same vein, the Committee resolved to summon the Director in charge of the IPPIS in Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning who is in charge to come.and explain if these people are truly the full staff of the office of the Accountant General or not, as well as the political appointees.
In his remarks, Hon. Oke said: “Our ruling will be the Clerk should do a letter to the Director of IPPIS in the office of the Accountant General and ask him to come and explain to us if the staff that appeared on the bank schedule of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are indeed their personnel.
“And from where do they get their salaries becaue we have to find out whether they are being paid double salaries? So we have to deal with this issue exhaustively. We have to exhaust all the issues so that we can come into a conclusion on the matter,” Hon. Oke stressed.
Similarly, Hon. Oke harped on the ed for the Director of Human Resources in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to appear before the Committee to explain those who are the personnel and political appointees and the pool staff, noting that the “pool staff sent to various MDAs draw their salaries from their parent ministries. So their names should feature on the Ministry personnel.”