Senate Committee on Public Accounts has commenced the probe of the National Orientation Agency, NOA over payment of N2 billion as cash advances to some of its staff members, but remained unretired or unaccounted for.
Similarly, the agency also paid N129 million cash to other staff members instead of paying the money directly into their accounts as stipulated in circular on E-payment Ref No. TRY/A8&B8/2008 OAGF/CAD/026/VOL.11/465 dated 22nd October, 2008.
Action of the Senate panel, chaired by Senator Mathew Urhoghide (PDP Edo South), was based on the 2016 Report of the Auditor General for the Federation.
When queried on the expenses, NOA, rather than attaching the vouchers used in spending the N2 billion to the documents submitted to the committee, only presented journals to justify the expenditure which was not accepted by members of the committee.
But the Director General of the agency, Garba Abari pleaded for more time to look for relevant vouchers supporting the expenditure, saying he was alarmed about the figure involved in the expenditure.
However, neither Abari nor any official of NOA could explain how N129million was spent when a member of the committee, Senator Peter Nwaboshi (PDP Delta North) asked them questions to that effect.
After the much heated debate on the two expenses, the committee yielded to the request of the Director General for more time to address issues raised in the query and thereafter adjourned the meeting for NOA till May 27 for proper preparation by the officials.
The panel noted in its query to the agency “a sum of N1.9 billion being cash advance to some members of staff of the agency, was left unretired as at 31st December, 2014”, adding that “in 2015, additional outstanding advances amounting to N108.4 million was recorded, thereby bringing the total to N2 billion.”
“The practice of not retiring advances granted to staff contravened the provision of Financial Regulation 1405 which 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 Regulation1404 which 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,” it stressed.
But, NOA in a written response stated: “After careful examination of our books, it was found that the figures are programme expenses and ought to have been expenses after retirement and not to be capitalized and carried forward in our statement of financial position in the general purpose financial statement (GPFS).”
The second query reads: “Examination of the agency’s payment vouchers revealed that payments totalling N129,036,700.00 (One hundred and twenty-nine million, thirty-six thousand, seven hundred naira) 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 which 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 and on no account should the Central Pay Officer (CPO) 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.”
NOA, in a written response, stated: “The payment in question were accumulation of several payments made over a period of time while the agency was carrying out its various programmes.
“The urgency and nature of the agency’s programme sometimes necessitate it to use the programme accountant to disburse money to individuals 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.”
However, the agency was unable to present any document justifying disbursement of the N129 million to the committee.
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