The House of Representatives Committee on Public Account on Thursday walked out a delegation from the Department of Petroleum Resources from an investigative hearing on alleged financial irregularities in the department running into trillions of naira.
The committee frowned at the continuous failure of the Director/CEO, Engr. Sarki Auwalu, to appear for the hearing, which became necessary following queries raised by the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation.
Some of the queries read: “Department of Petroleum Resources collected the sum of N733,054,301,173.04 but paid a net of N706,283,397,141.80.
“Review of documents relating to outstanding royalty, gas flare penalty, gas sales royalty and concession rental due from Oil and Gas Companies showed that the sum of US$ 3,214,022,999.93 was not collected by DPR as at when due.”
The Deputy Chairman of the committee, Rep. Abdulkadir Abdullahi (APC-Bauchi), at the hearing on Thursday said the committee had been receiving excuses from the CEO on why he should not appear.
According to Abdullahi: “We just received the letter that he won’t be coming today and the submissions also.
“I am afraid, I do not think we should allow this appearance to go on because respect begets respect.
“If the CEO won’t appear, he should have informed us earlier.
“And this is not first time.
“Uou have been making excuses one after the other and today again, it is the same old story.
“So I am afraid, I want to insist that the CEO appears.
“These are not issues raised by us.
“They were raised by the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation.”
Abdullahi said that legislators were elected among others to be watchdogs over public funds, but certain critical government agencies have formed a habit of refusing parliamentary summons.
According to Abdullahi: “It is in your character to deliberately disrespect the parliament.
“I am afraid we cannot continue.”
The Chairman of the committee, Rep. Wole Oke (PDP-Osun), said the committee was not happy to receive the response to the query raised by the Auditor General on the day of the hearing.
According to Oke: “We expect that you should have furnished this committee with these documents much earlier to enable us read same and form an opinion.
“We won’t be able to take you today.
“We want the CEO to appear before this committee.
“We are a friendly committee and very civil.
“We are mindful of the privilege.
“Out of 200 million Nigerians, you gave us the opportunity to serve you, to represent you, so we do not attack, oppress, intimidate people that appear before us.
“It is not in our culture.
“We speak to issues, facts and law.
“If the Auditor General did not raise this queries, we will not invite you.
“We need to work in synergy to deepen the rule of law and make our country a better place.
“And the figures we are talking about is in the region of trillions of naira.
“The first query, the figure is over N1 trillion.
“So it is a very serious matter.
“I want you to see reasons with us and it is better for the CEO to cause appearance even if he will delegate you to speak to the matter.
“Let him be here and say so.”
The Head of Planning, DPR, Johnson Makanjuola, who led the delegation, tendered an unreserved apology on be half of the CEO.
Makanjuola explained that the CEO attended the Federal Executive Council meeting with the Minister on Wednesday.
According to him, the CEO was was given an assignment which required him go back to the Presidential Villa again.
He said: “When we discovered that he won’t make it here today, we came to meet the chairman of the committee to explain to him that we will be bringing a letter on his behalf.
“So we tender unreserved apology on his behalf and I plead that you listen to what we have to say.
“He is a new man on the seat.
“Wven if he is here, I will be the one to speak on the observations raised.”
The committee, however, resolved that the CEO should appear in person unfailingly next week for the hearing.