…….. Warn Nigerian Customs Service Over Accounts Manipulations
The House of Representative Public Accounts Committee has condemned the management of the National Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) over transfer of the whooping sum N17, 158, 883, 034. 69 to persons and companies without payment vouchers and other supporting documents provided for audit by the office of the Auditor General of the Federation.
The probe into the transaction which occurred in 2013, was a continuation of the ongoing investigative hearing on audit queries raised by Auditor-General of Federation on Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) over dwindling revenues of the Federal Government
The query was contained in the 2018 report of the Auditor-General which stated that “payment entries in the cashbook/accounts shall be vouched for on one of the prescribed treasury forms.”
It was one of the 50 cases against the Fund as its Managing Director, Dr Michael Akabogu, appeared before the Committee being chaired by Hon (Dr) Busayo Oluwole Oke (PDP-OSUN) .
According to the report, vouchers shall be made out in favour of the person or persons to whom the money is actually due and under no circumstances shall a cheque be raised, or cash paid for services for which a voucher has not been raised.
According to the query, “Audit observed from the Fund’s Statements of Account No. 1750011691 with Skye bank plc, for the period 1st January, 2013 to 20th December, 2013, and Statements of Account No.2001754610 with First Bank Plc for the period 7th January, 2013 to 28th February, 2013, that amounts totaling N 17,158,883,034.69 were transferred to some persons and companies from these accounts. However, payment vouchers relating to the transfers together with their supporting documents were not provided for audit. Consequently, the purpose(s) for the transfers could not be authenticated.”
The Auditor General said that “where funds weree transferred without adequate records, there may be the possibility of diversion of such funds for personal use.
The report recommended that “the Managing Director is required to account for the sum of N 17,158,883,034.69, failing which the amount should be recovered and paid back to the Consolidated Revenue Fund and sanctions should apply”
Other queries against the agency in the 2018 report are the diversion of N5.5 billion into a commercial bank account not approved by the Accountant General; irregular payment of unapproved allowances to the tune of N1.87 billion; unauthorized investment without adequate records to the tune of N2.2 billion; under-deduction of PAYE tax to the tune of N1.4 billion; and non remittance of value added tax to the tune of N1.4 billion among others.
In his response the MD, Akabogu, said that some persons involved with the issues were being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
He said that after due diligence and following the process to be able to identify most of the other transactions, they could not lay their hands on them.
He said he just got into office on June 1, 2021, and requested the committee to invite the executives in charge of the Fund at the times the financial infractions occurred to answer for the money.
Chairman of the Committee, Wole Oke, accused previous management of toying with the mandate of the agency.
He suggested that there should be legislation to empower conventional insurance companies to take over the functions of the NSITF in the private sector and restrict the Fund to the government sector alone since contributions are mismanaged and people who have claims find it difficult to get their claims.
The Fund was directed to return next week to continue the probe why the Committee also directed the current management to furnish members with the reasons why the former mangment of the Agency were recently sacked by the Federal Government
The managements of both the Nigerian Port Authority, NPA and the Nigerian Railway Corporation NRC as well as the Minister of State for Transportation, Senator Gbemisola Saraki also appeared before the Committee on various Audit Queries raised against the Agencies running into several billions of Naira
While their defences were admitted on Oath, they were directed to come for presentations on another day because of the volumes of their submissions before the Committee
Rebuke Customs for rendering accounts three years late
This came just as the Committee expressed displeasure over the failure of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to render its accounts to the Auditor General of the Federation (AuGF) for three financial years
The representative of the Service, SI Ibrahim, who appeared before the committee on Tuesday, said the service’s financial accounts from 2017 to 2020 were submitted just on Monday which he claimed was due to a delay in the appointment of internal auditors.
Chairman of the Committee, Wole Oke, expressed displeasure at the delay, saying a sub-committee would be set up to review the 2017 to 2020 accounts.
According to him, “We would review your accounts and I, with my Vice Chairman, will also work with them in that sub-committee. We would also meet with you to review together.
“What we are trying to do is in future avoid this kind of occurrence. The Nigerian Customs has no reasons to render accounts late because of the role you play. Our budget is financed significantly by your activities, yourself and Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS). So we need to really work round what the issues are.”