In 2015, the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) spent almost a billion naira for the purchase of “store items”, a Senate committee report has revealed.
The bureau, according to the report, paid a total of N995 million to store officers to purchase items like refrigerators, tyres, stationeries, laptops, among others.
There was, however, no evidence to show that the items were actually purchased or taken charge.
Besides the frivolous spending that could not be accounted for, the CBB also paid salaries to dead and retired officers months after their death and retirement respectively.
Details of the discrepancies in the bureau’s spendings are contained in the annual report of the Auditor-General of the Federation (AGF) for 2015.
The report was submitted to the Senate by its Committee on Public Account in June.
The CCB is one of the many Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) indicted and queried by the Auditor-General for incessant violation of extant rules, some of which include non-retirement of personal advances within a financial year and grant of cash advances above approved limit.
A copy of the report obtained by PREMIUM TIMES reveals that 114 MDAs were queried by the Auditor-General; of which 84 responded, made submissions and apperated before the Senate panel to defend the queries raised.
Altogether 21 MDAs sent in written reports but did not appear before the committee.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how seven MDAs including the Ministries of Information, Police and Health, refused to appear before the Senate Committee to account for public funds at their disposal.
Upon discovering the discrepancies in the CCB’s account, the Auditor-General queried the bureau for spending N995 million on store items for which there was no evidence.
In its response, the CCB claimed that the items were purchased and receipted. The bureau said the movement of files was responsible for their failure to present it to the Auditor.
But the committee, in the report, observed that the receipt provided by the bureau was dated December 31, 2015 against March, 2015 when the payment was made.
“Besides, the act is a contravention of Financial Regulations,” the panel said.
The committee therefore recommended that the sum of N995 million be recovered from the officer who recommended the payment and pay back to treasury in accordance with Financial Regulation 3107.
It also said evidence of remittance should be submitted to the Auditor-General and the Senate committee.
The Auditor-General also discovered that the CCB in 2015 paid a monthly gross salary of N128,714 to a dead officer of the bureau six months after his demise – amounting to N772,289.
The name of the officer was not stated in the report.
To this query, the bureau said extra salary payment will be deducted by the Pension Commission (PENCOM) from the benefit of the affected officer.
The panel therefore recommended the officer who authorised the payment be sanctioned in line with the Public Service Rule. It also said evidence of compliance be submitted to the Auditor-General and the panel.
And retired officers too…
Besides paying salaries to a dead officer, the CCB was also indicted for paying N242,275 a monthly salary to a retired officer months after his retirement from the bureau’s Kaduna office.
Although the name of the officer was not mentioned, the report disclosed that the CCB paid a total of N971,061 to the officer up till December, 2015 while the officer retired on August 25,2015.
In its response, the CCB said the retirement benefit of the affected officer will be used to recover the money through PENCOM.
And in the same vein, the panel recommended that the officer who authorised the payment be sanctioned and disciplined in line with Public Service Rules. It also said evidence of compliance must be submitted to the Auditor-General and the committee.
Although the panel has recommended sanctions for indicted MDAs in the report, no time frame was given for these sanctions to be carried out.
Similarly, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, had vowed to publish the names of erring MDAs but no publication has been seen to this regard, either from the Senate media or his personal outlet.
“…This Senate will publish the names of these agencies for the public to know. This Senate will insist, any public servant or civil servant that is given public funds for public good and has questions to answer and refuse to appear to answer, should have no business being in government.
“Because all of us are supposed to be accountable to the people and, therefore, if someone feels that he is not going to be accountable, then that person has no business remaining in office,” he said.
The Senate, particularly the public accounts committee, is known for always talking tough and issuing threats (including arrest warrants) but never follows through.
The committee had on several occasions threatened heads of major agencies like the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, the Central Bank of Nigeria, Minister of Information and the Niger Delta Development Commission.
The committee had even threatened not to approve the annual budgets of these MDAs but it all fell to the ground.
Top among the panel’s resolution is the passage of the Audit Service Bill into law.
The chairman of the committee, Matthew Urhoghide, had said this will help strengthen and streamline the audit process with a view to ensuring prudence in public finance and transactions.
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