In order to respond to audit questions totaling approximately N300 billion, the House of Representatives on Monday granted the Chief Executive Officers of the Nigeria Communications Satellite Limited (NIGCOMSAT), Nigeria Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC), Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA), and three other organizations seventy-two hours to appear before its Committee on Public Accounts.

The chief executive officers of the Nigeria Export Promotion Council (NEPC), the Federal University of Petroleum Studies, Effurum, Delta State, and the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) were among the other entities that were called to attend within the allotted 72 hours.

The six agencies are part of the 60 agencies listed in the first phase of audit investigation and scheduled to appear before the House Committee on Public Accounts to defend the queries issued by the Office of the Auditor General for the Federation within the next one month.

However, only the Rural Electrification Agency sent a letter to the committee explaining that they could not honour the invitation because the Chief Executive who is the accounting officer was out of the country.

While the REA is to defend unapproved expenditure amounting to about N1.405 billion, NIGCOMSAT is to defend an unapproved expenditure of N1.048 billion while NEPC is to defend an expenditure of N264. 50 million.

The NUPRC is to defend an unexplained expenditure of N275. 626 million and 35.738 million dollars which it failed to transfer to the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation, while NEPZA and FUPRE are to come and defend unexplained expenditure of N15. 626 billion and N2. 235 billion respectively.

Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Bamidele Salam informed members of the committee that the agencies refused to take advantage of the invitation to defend themselves concerning the audit query against them.

However, members of the committee criticised the action of the agencies, describing it as total disregard for the parliament and the Constitution.

Hon. Ademurin Kuye who was the first speak said the parliament was an important institution of government that should be taken seriously while also taking exception to the action of the agencies.

Kuye who said he had to reschedule his flight from Lagos on Monday morning because of the interaction with the agencies said if members will take the parliament serious, agencies established by the parliament must take the institution serious.

He said the agencies must be reminded that the parliament is vested with the power of investigation and summon by the Constitution, while describing them as serial violators of the constitution.

He informed the committee that the agencies had problem with the Public Account Committee of the 9th Assembly and were unable to defend audit queries against them through out the life span of the Assembly.

He said the Rural Electrification Agency has the 2017 audit query pending against it as it was unable to defend allegation of fraud amounting to over N2 billion level against it by the OAUGF.

Kuye also alleged that the PAC of the 9th Assembly had a running battle with with NIGCOMSAT over the 469 million dollars Chinese loan taken by the company which they failed to defend until the expiration of the tenure of the last Assembly, while NEPZA failed to defend allegation of being a conduit pipe to siphon some 15 million dollars.

Contributing, Hon. Billy Osaweru said even though he was a first timer in the House, it was obvious that something was wrong, adding that what happened in the 9th Assembly must not be allowed to happen in the 10th Assembly.

Hon. Osaweru said there must be punitive action taken against agencies who refuse to honour invitation from the parliament especially when it was an opportunity for them to defend themselves.

He said the House should exercise it’s powers under the constitution and issue a warrant of arrest against the Chief Executive of the agencies.

Hon. Aliyu Bappa Misau stressed that when an audit query is issued, it gives those concern the opportunity to defend the query, adding that for the queries to form part of the audit report is an indication that the agencies refused to respond to them.

He said the invitation from the parliament was a second opportunity for the agencies to come and respond to the queries, expressing regret that the agencies have constantly refused to respond to invitation from the parliament.

However Hon. Femi Bamishile appealed to members to give the agencies another opportunity to appear and defend the queries against them. The committee however voted to give them 72 hours to appear before the committee to defend the audit queries, warning that failure to appear, the committee will be forced to take drastic action

Culled from: https://africangazette.net/