Members of Senate Committee on Public Accounts were stunned on Thursday as the Petroleum Product Pricing Regulatory Agency, PPPRA, now known as the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority, NMDPRA, failed to present documents justifying payment of N131 million as legal fee to external solicitor.
The Auditor General of the Federation, AuGF in 2018 Audited report had query the agency for payment of N131 million as legal consultancy fees.
But when the chairman of the committee, Senator Mathew Urhoghide asked the officials of PPPRA to present the evidence for the payment of N131 million as legal consultancy fees to external solicitors.
The lawmakers wondered how PPPRA could pay such whopping amount to external solicitors when th in-house legal department was competent to handle such cases.
They also observed that the consent of Attorney General of Federation was obtained before engagement and before legal fees were agreed upon in accordance with extant circular, but amazed that there is no evidence of any deliverables in the contract agreement before payment was made.
However, officials of the PPPRA were unable to present document to justify payment of the N131 million as legal consultancy fees to external solicitors.
Instead, the representative of the PPPRA, General Manager, Accounts, Dele Adewumi told the lawmakers that the agency was in urgent need of continuous legal representation in various cases initiated against the federal government by the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC.
Adewumi added that the agency considered it more efficient and financial prudent to engage the external solicitors.
The query reads: “N131 million was paid to staff of Messes Ahmed Uwais and co legal practitioner for retainer-ship and consultancy service from 1st January- December 2017.
“To ensure probity and accountability in management of public’s funds and to ensure prudence and control of legal services provided by private legal practitioners for government matters, the office of the Solicitors General of the Federation issued a circular Ref No SGF/PS/CIR/624/1 if 1st July 2003 seeking the consent of the Honorable Attorney General of the Federation prior to engagement and payment external solicitors.”
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