*Senate Panel Probes Action
*Lawmakers summon terminal operators over $753m debt owed FG

The Senate Public Account Committee (SPAC) is currently scrutinising the audit queries issued against the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) as contained in the 2018 report of the Auditor General for the Federation (AUGF).

The AuGF queries indicated that the NSTIF could not justify the spending of N17.158bn in 2013, with required documents.

The agency, however said some of the vouchers had been eaten up by termites.

The N17.158 billion as stated in the 2018 AuGF report, was the total amount of money transferred by the NSITF from its Skye and First Bank accounts into various untraceable accounts belonging to individuals and companies from January to December 2013.

The Auditor – General’s office had in the 2018 Audit report, raised 50 different queries bordering on alleged misappropriation of funds by management of the agency.

One of the queries read: “The management of the NSITF as shown in statements of Account No. 1750011691 with Skye Bank Plc, for the period 1st January, 2013 to 20th December, 2013, and Statements of Account No.2001754610 with First Bank Plc for the period 7th January, 2013 to 28th February, 2013, transferred amounts totaling N 17,158,883,034.69 billion to some persons and companies from these accounts.

“However, payment vouchers relating to the transfers together with their supporting documents were not provided for audit. Consequently, the purpose(s) for the transfers could not be authenticated.

“These are in violation of Financial rule 601

which states that, ‘All payment entries in the cashbook/accounts shall be vouched for on one of the prescribed treasury forms. Vouchers shall be made out in favour of the person or persons to whom the money is actually due.

“Under no circumstances shall a cheque be raised, or cash paid for services for which a voucher has not been raised.”

The SPAC, chaired by Senator Mathew Urhoghide ( PDP Edo South), interrogated NSITF’s past and present managements on the issue, on Friday.

The panel asked the management team, where monies totaling N17.158bn were transferred to between January and December 2013.

The management could not offer any satisfactory explanations on the undocumented multiple transfers.

The officers in charge of the agency in 2013, told the committee that documents like vouchers were left behind by them while the present Managing Director of NSITF , Dr. Michael Akabogu said no documents of such were in their kitty .

He said, “The Container the said documents were kept by past management has not only been beaten by rains over the years but even possibly being eaten up by termites.

“As directed by this committee, I told the past management officers on the need for them to help us out in answering this query with necessary documents which have not been made available for us.”

However in his submissions, the Managing Director of NSITF from 2010 to 2016, Mallam Umar Munir Abubakar said he was unaware of the query and have no explanations for it since the audit was not carried out during his tenure.

Abubaka’s successor , Mr Adebayo Somefun who was head of the agency from May 2017 to July 2020, said those in the account section should be able to trace the documents which the current General Manager Finance , alleged to have been locked up in an abandoned container within the premises of the Trust Fund in Abuja .

Irked by submissions of the past and present NSITF officials, the Senate committee ordered them to re – appear before the committee with all the requested evidential documents unfailingly on Thursday , September 22, 2022.

Lawmakers Summon Terminal Operators Over $753m Debt Owed FG

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts (PAC) has summoned 18 terminal operators doing business in the nation’s ports over $753 million debt owed the federal government.

The lawmakers summon followed a query issued by the office of the Auditor General of the Federation to the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) over the indebtedness of the 18 terminal operators to the tune of $753 million and N1.61 billion respectively.

The AuGF had in his report on non-compliance/internal control weaknesses issues in Ministries, departments and agencies of the federal government of Nigeria for year ended 31st December, 2019 said terminal operators were indebted to the government to the tune of 852.094 million dollars and N1,878,560,509.57.

According to the query, agreements signed between NPA and various Terminal Operators states that a fixed annual payment of a sum as specified in the schedule below to be paid in 12 equal instalments in each operating year.

The query listed the terminal operators and their debt profile to include APM Terminal, Apapa ($562.060 million), Apapa Bulk Terminal ($4,621.20), ENL Consortium ($957,020.77), Greenview Development ($20,750,443.65) and Standard Flour Mills ($893.77).

Others were Intels Nigeria Limited, operators of Terminal A at the Delta Ports Complex ($2,429,382.80), Intels Nigeria Limited, operators of Terminal B of the Delta Ports Complex ($4,589,576.75), and Associated Maritime Services ($328,027.64) and Greenleigh Ports Nigeria Limited ($1,734,492.41).

The rest were BUA Ports and Terminal Limited ($12,254,424.55), Port and Terminal Operators Nigeria Limited ($107,311,506.46), Brawal Shipping Nigeria Limited ($226,541.72), Intels Nigeria Limited at Onne Port Complex ($430,404.81), Intels Nigeria Limited also at Onne Port ($670,954.72), Intels Nigeria Limited also at the Onne Port ($1,928,250.44), Shoreline Logistics ($1,181,023.57).

In its response sent to the lawmakers, the NPA management confirmed that the original debt, saying that out of the amount, $753 million and N1,609,150,534.32 have not been paid by the terminal operators.

Addressing the lawmakers, the Managing Director of NPA, Mohammed Bello-Koko raised concern of the inability of the agency to recover the debt despite efforts made towards recovering it even up to seeking the assistance of the Federal Ministry of Finance.

Responding, the Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Wole Oke promised that the National Assembly would wade into the matter in ensuring the recovery of the debts.

According to him, all the debtors would be summoned to appear before the Committee to ascertain their indebtedness to the the Federal Government and to workout terms of payment.

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