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    Auditors report: Senate threatens NPA, NIMASA others with arrest warrants

    The Senate has threatened to issue arrest warrants against any head of Federal Government agency that failed to appear before it to defend the queries raised against them by the Auditor General for the Federation in its 2016, 2017 and 2018 reports currently being considered simultaneously by the red chamber.

    The Chairman, Senate Public Accounts Committee, Senator Matthew Urhoghide, stated this while speaking with journalists in his office on Friday.

    He said the Senate had already decided that it would not attend to the budget proposals of the erring agencies when working on the 2022 Appropriation Bill.

    He identified the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency and the Nigerian Ports Authority as major culprits.

    Investigation by our correspondent revealed that the AuGF query against NIMASA borders on alleged financial infractions totalling about N814m.

    They include payment for service not rendered (N 741,904,761.2), irregularities in contract award (N48,067,500.00), and retirement of cash advances (N25,490,028).

    The NPA on the other hand got series of queries from the AuGF, consisting of some alleged financial infractions of about N10bn.

    They included, irregularities in the award, execution and payment for contract (N7,503,344,599), unpaid rent (N2,504,959,843.77), and outstanding insurance claims ( (N54,354,138.57).

    Others were, payments of insurance premium on non-existing assets (N18,338,056.45), irregularities in the award and payment of contract (N18,300,000.00), payment made for contract not executed (N20,830,638.00) and full payment made for partial execution of project (N20,830,638.62).

    The Senator said the current accounting officers who were not in office when the infractions occurred had no reason to be afraid because the panel would hold the particular occupant who committed the atrocity liable while passing its verdict.

    Urhoghide said, “We have concluded deliberations on the 2015 report of the Auditor General report and Senate had taken actions based on the submissions that we made at the Public Accounts Committee.

    “Concerning the agencies that did not appear to defend the query issued against them by the OAuGF, we have their list and we have reported them to the Senate.

    “The Senate in its strength and job description as an institution, will take the necessary steps that will lead to sanctions against the affected agencies of government.

    “The agencies cannot be a law to themselves, part of the steps being taken by the Senate is not to attend to their appropriation this year.

    “The senate President has said it on the floor of the Senate but whatever final decision would be, will be officially announced.

    He further said, “For the 2016, 2017 and 2018 AuGF reports that we are considering concurrently now, the erring agencies including the NPA, NIMASA, among others, we are going to make sure that they appear.

    “It might border on embarrassing the accounting officers of those agencies. We are ready to issue warrants of arrest against them because I know the Senate President will be well disposed to signing a warrant of arrest particularly against the agencies found guilty of same offence when we were considering the 2015 report.

    “If they want to repeat the same thing when we are considering the 2016 report, we won’t tolerate that. They cannot be spending government money and they would not want to account for it.

    “We are carrying out a constitutional role as contained in section 85 (6&7). It is a provision that the agencies, including foreign missions, must account for the public funds that they spend.

    “If they still refuse to come, it means that they have something to hide. They must be dragged out to give account.

    “The erring agencies in their best interest should appear before the SPAC to answer queries that had been raised by the OAuGF.

    “The mistake some of the accounting officers are making is that they claimed the infractions did not happen during their tenure, therefore, when the Senate Committee invites them, they will not go.

    “They’ve forgotten that government is a continuum. When you take over assets, you take over the liabilities.

    “However, we have always told them that they have nothing to fear. When they appear and the committee’s recommendation is that they should refund money, we will not ask the new accounting officers to pay.

    “We would personalise it to the people who were there before. Any refund would be borne by the officer who was on the seat as of the time the infraction occurred.

    “We could even ask the current occupants of the seat to call their predecessors and find out what happened.”

    Copyright PUNCH.

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