The Senate Public Accounts Committee has described as unacceptable, the alleged failure of the National Orientation Agency to properly retire the N1.9bn advances to some of its members of staff.
The Committee has also disagreed with the agency that N129m cash was paid to some members of staff instead of paying the money directly into their accounts.
The panel explained that the actions of NOA was contrary to the provisions of the Federal Government Circular on E-payment Ref No. TRY/A8&B8/2008 OAGF/CAD/026/VOL.11/465 dated 22nd October, 2008 .
The Senate Committee made the observation while scrutinising the 2016 report of the Auditor General for the Federation at its last sitting on Thursday.
The panel alleged that the agency did not attach the vouchers used in disbursing the N2bn, to the documents submitted to it.
The Chairman of the Committee, Senator Matthew Urhoghide, according to the panel’s proceedings, obtained by our correspondent on Monday, said the agency only presented journals to justify the expenditure which was not acceptable.
But the Director- General of NOA , Garba Abari, pleaded for more time to enable the agency to look for relevant vouchers to support the expenditure.
Abari said he expressed shock when he saw the details of the disbursements carried out by his predecessors, in the AuGF report.
Officials of the agency who accompanied Abari to the Senate panel could not justify the payment of the additional N129m cash to workers when they could be paid through their bank accounts.
The Committee was not convinced with documents presented by the officials insisting that they did not effectively justify the disbursement of the N129m.
The Committee therefore directed the DG to furnish it with relevant documents used in carrying out the various payments in the next sitting.
The panel thereafter adjourned the meeting to 27th May, 2021 to enable the NOA to return with necessary documents.
The AuGF query issued to NOA read in part, “The following observations were made:- (a) A sum of N1.9bn being cash advanced to some members of staff of the Agency, was left unretired as at 31st December, 2014.
“In 2015, additional outstanding advances amounting to N108.4m was recorded, thereby bringing the total to N2bn.
“The practice of not retiring advances granted to staff contravened the provision of Financial Regulation 1405.
“The regulation stipulates that accounting officers are responsible for ensuring prompt repayment of all advances by installments or otherwise.
“Furthermore, advances register was not properly maintained and retirement file not kept in line with Financial Regulation 1404.
” It requires each accounting officer of a Ministry/Extra Ministerial office and other arms of government to ensure that Advances Account Records are fully indexed and maintained to record advances issued and all recoveries made. ”
However, the NOA in a written response to the AuGF query said,” After careful examination of our books , it was found that the figures are programmes expenses and ought to have been under expenses after retirement and not to be capitalized and carried forward in our statement of Financial position in the General purpose financial statement”
The second query read on the N129m cash payment read, “Examination of the Agency’s payment vouchers revealed that payments totalling N129,036,700.00 violated the provision of the Circular on e-payment Ref No. TRY/A8&B8/2008 OAGF/CAD/026/VOL.11/465 dated 22nd October, 2008.
“The circular stipulates that all employees of the Federal Government of Nigeria must open an account with a commercial bank into which all payments due to him/her must be paid.
” It further stated that on no account should the Central Pay Officer collect cash from the bank for the purpose of disbursement to a government official or contractor.
“As a result, the expenditures cannot be accepted as legitimate charges against public funds.
“The Director-General should justify the breach of extant regulations. Otherwise, the officers that authorized the payments should be sanctioned in compliance with Financial Regulation 3128. ”
But, NOA in its written response, said, “The payment in question were accumulation of several payment made over a period of time while the agency was carrying out it’s various programmes.
” The urgency and nature of the Agency’s programme sometimes necessitate it to use the programme accountant to disburse money to individual who may not have accounts or are constrained by time and circumstances to quickly access their bank as most of these programmes are time bound.”