…You can’t singlehandedly sign off such huge amount-Lawmakers
…It’s the practice overtime -Perm Sec
By Levinus Nwabughiogu
House of Representatives and the Ministry of Finance on Tuesday got into argument on the payment procedure of N2.8 billion to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in 2017.
While the lawmakers favoured recourse to an official memo and presidential consent before making the contribution, the Ministry said it was not necessary as such had been the practice over the years.
But the parliamentarian’s responded, saying that doing it over the years doesn’t make it right.
The exchange happened when the Ministry appeared before the Public Accounts Committee of the House in the ongoing investigative hearing on audit queries by Auditor-General of Federation on Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Aliyu Ahmed, said the payment was made by the Minister in response to a memo by OPEC, requesting the amount.
According to him, the office of the Accountant General released the funds as Nigeria’s contribution to OPEC for international development in 2017.
Ahmed said payment to international organizations are not guided by the Procurement Act, saying it was a routine payment.
Making reference to hundreds of international organizations, the Permanent Secretary said going to the President for every approval would be more expensive and too much for ministry to handle.
This submission sharply annoyed the Committee members which rejected it.
Chairman of the Committee, Hon Wole Oke, said getting approval from the Presidency wouldn’t be out of place.
Agreeing that the payment was necessary, Oke ruled that such henceforth, the Ministry should always seek the Presidency’s approval before making such payment.
“Probably an approval from Mr President from FEC for this large sums of money would have been apt. Your submissions are apt. We know where the money is coming from and where it went to. What we are saying and for the Auditor-General to have raised it, there must have been an issue.
“For a minister to dip her hands into the Treasury for whatever purposes and take N2.8 billion is not friendly. The expenditure was a right cause. It was a responsibility that we undertook to bear. But just the procedure. Maybe a memo. It was not procedural. Until this act is amended, your Minister is still the chief procurer. What would it cost her to take a memo to FEC to get approval?” he said.
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