Senators fume as ministry pays contractors N968.8m without approval

Members of the Senate Public Account Committee have expressed their dissatisfaction towards some officials of the Ministry of Defence who paid N968.8m to contractors without approval.

The report of the Auditor-General for the Federation specifically indicted the ministry officials of paying the huge sums to the contractors.

It was meant for the production and supply of medals and ribbons for the Armed Forces Independence Anniversary but allegedly without approval from Federal Executive Council and the Ministerial Tender Board.

The AuGF report indicted defence ministry officials of facilitating the payment for the contracts despite the objection raised by the Deputy Director (Budget) in a memo dated April 24, 2013.

The SPAC Chairman, Senator Matthew Urhoghide, sustained the auditor-general’s query because the defence ministry officials failed to honour the panel’s invitation to explain their own side of the allegation.

Urhoghide noted with dismay that series of invitations were extended to the ministry over the matter without any response.

He said the committee, therefore, had no other option than to sustain the query.

The AuGF stated that the contract was awarded in 2010 and that 50 per cent of the contract sum was paid to the contractors while the balance of the sum was paid January 26, 2015 to the contractor.

The query read in part, “The permanent secretary of the ministry is expected to recover N968m from the contractors’ and forward the payment for audit verification.

“A memo, dated 24th April, 2013, raised by DD (Budget), had expressed misgivings about the way and manner the contract was awarded, further raising the doubt on the lack of transparency.

“The entire contract sum had been paid in January. The sum of N484,415,000.00 was paid in 2010 representing 50 per cent of the contract sum and the balance of N484,415,000.00 was paid on 26/01/2015 vide payment voucher No. 4001.

“Further examination of the payment voucher attachments revealed the following irregularities:

“There was no evidence of any Ministerial Tenders Board Meeting that considered this award, contrary to Financial Regulation 2921(i).

“The approval of the permanent secretary for the payment of the balance of N484,415,000.00 is above his approval threshold.

“There was no evidence of Federal Executive Council approval, together with the Bureau of Public Procurement ‘No Objection Certificate’.

“A memo, dated 24th April, 2013, raised by DD (Budget), had expressed misgivings about the way and manner the contract was awarded, further raising the doubt on the lack of transparency.

“The items (ribbons and medals) were not taken on store charge because there was no Store Receipt Voucher produced, in violation of Financial Regulations 2401(i).

“The total sum of N968,830,000 paid in respect of this contract could not be admitted as a legitimate charge against public funds.”

It added that the permanent secretary had been requested to recover the sum of N968,830,000.00 and forward evidence of the recovery for audit verification.

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