SWITZERLAND, JULY 14 – The House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts, headed by Hon Wole Oke, on Monday, commenced an investigation of the Nigerian Embassy in Israel over the withdrawal of the sum of $1,046,258.99 to pay utility bills in 2014.
Chairman of the committee, Wole Oke disclosed this during a hearing on the audit queries issued by the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation (OAGF) to the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs between 2013 and 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 of the visa and administrative charges during the period under review.
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 collectors registered with details of Treasury 6A and relevant amounts 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(Ministry of Foreign Affairs) 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.”
Reacting to the allegations, 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.”
“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.
Not satisfied with his explanation, 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 check on page 26, except you have several of this evidence if you add them up whether it will be equivalent $187,000”.
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 blamed the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs for failing to take necessary steps.
The Committee further 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.
The Auditor-General had in the 2014 audit query demanded an explanation of the dead (late) person and retired public servants who were paid in December 2014.
Responding, an official from the office of the Accountant General explained that the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information (IPPIS) in the Accountant General’s Office monitors the payment under the IPPIS, adding that the numbers are unique with individuals so they are not 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”, the official said.