The House of Representatives Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has picked halls in the explanations by the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) over the alleged mismanagement of COVID-19 intervention funds of N103 million.

This came to the limelight today, 25th, January 2024, during the hearing of the Committee chaired by Representative Bamidele Salam.

The Director General of the Agency, Professor Charles Anosike who was represented by the agency’s General Manager in charge of Finance and Accounts, Umar Kinafa who appeared with his co-staff was questioned over the sum of One Hundred and Three Million, Ninety-Four Thousand, Thirty-Eight naira only (N103…) allocated to the agency as support funds to cushion the effect of the pandemic.

In his presentation, the General Manager of Finance said the intervention fund was used to settle the staff 13th-month salary in 2021.

He confirmed that the COVID-19 intervention fund was added to the Internal Generating Revenue of the agency to pay N298 million salaries of workers.

According to him; “When we received this money, there is a provision in our condition of service to pay 13th month for our staff in line with the industries regulation. So, we use this money and the little we have to augment and pay that 13th month in 2021 as submitted”

Documents submitted revealed to the Committee that 1623 workers are the benefactors of the 13th month’s salary.

Committee members expressed displeasure with the augment procedure and demanded for the necessary approvals that gave the agency the right to augment the fund.

“Finance let me help you the way you put in a 13th-month salary as an incentive is wrong, 13th-month salaries are out of the condition of service for the agency, I work in the bank and I know that at the end of every year productivity kind of is been pay at 13th month, and its part of the collective agreement you signed with the staff, therefore whether is a fund or no fund, you have to make fund available, as it is mandatory upon you.

“The way you talk about it, people will think 13 month’s salary is an incentive you give because of COVID-19 when it is not. So, you will pay 13 months in 2023 and, 2024 and you will pay continuously as long as the agency still working, the questions now here is you do not have money. When you suppose to pay the 13-month pay, somebody will ask you that why is not IPPIS that should have been pay, 13 months usually pay from either the profit or the IGR because it’s not a government policy to pay 13 month. But the corporate organization have right and it’s part of the collective agreement, so my colleagues this is the explanation that he is supposed to drop, so as to clear the impression that probably 13 months just pay because they are not coming to work. What you are saying is that your IGR depleted because there was no operation and when the money came in, you utilised it to pay the salary that is the explanation” Hon. Aliyu Bappa, a member of the committee noted.

The Chairman grilled the agency over not responding to the committee’s two invitations last year October on queries raised by the Auditor- General of the Federation on 2019 reports.

He ordered the agency to come up with necessary documents to answer the queries and other related allegations.

To this end, the lawmakers unanimously resolved to allow the agency and particularly the Director General of the agency to reappear at the next hearing on Tuesday, 30th January 2024.