Senate Committee on Public Accounts has queried National Orientation Agency (NOA) over payment of N2 billion as cash advances to some members of staff of the agency and was left unretired.
The committee was also amazed following the payment of N129 million cash to some members of staff of the agency 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 .
The Senate Committee chaired by Senator Mathew Urhoghide hinged the query on the 2016 report of Auditor General of the Federation which is being considered by Senate Committee.
Findings by our correspondent revealed that the agency did not attach the vouchers used in spending the N2 billion to the documents submitted to the Committee, the agency only presented journals to justify the expenditure which was not acceptable by the lawmakers.
On failure to retire N2 billion, the Director-General of the agency, Garba Abari who pleaded for more time for the agency to look for relevant vouchers supporting the expenditure, said he was alarmed when he heard the figure.
A member of the Committee, Senator Peter Nwaboshi asked the agency to tell which emergency programme were they planning for that needed N129 million to take to the venue cash .
The officials of the agency were unable to give cogent response to Senator Nwaboshi’s question.
After much heated debate on the query, the Committee yielded to the request of the Director General of the agency for more time to address the issues raised in the query.
The Committee thereafter adjourned the meeting for NOA till 27th May, 2021 in order for them to prepare properly.
The query reads, “The following observations were made:- (a) A sum of N1.9 billion being cash advanced to some members of staff of the agency was left unretired as at 31st December, 2014. 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 Regulation 1404 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. “
But NOA in a written response said, “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 read, “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. “
But NOA said in a written response, “The payments 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 individual 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.”
The agency was unable to present any document justifying disbursement of the N129 million to the committee.