Audit queries: Reps panel summons Fashola, Pantami, Aregbesola, others


Members of the House of Representatives at plenary

The Public Accounts Committee of the House of Representatives, on Tuesday, gave four ministers and their permanent secretaries as well as their heads of finance and procurement departments, a seven-day ultimatum to appear before it or have the relevant laws invoked against them.

The affected ministers are Rauf Aregbesola (Interior), Ali Pantami (Communications and Digital Economy), Prof Osagie Ehanire (Health), Sharon Ikeazor (Environment), Babatunde Fashola (Works and Housing).

The Chairman of the committee, Oluwole Oke, issued the threats and summons at the investigative hearing held on Tuesday over the alleged refusal by the ministers and officials of their ministries to respond to audit queries issued by the Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation over the years.

Oke said Aregbesola should appear along with the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, the Comptroller General of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, and the head of the Federal Fire Service.

The chairman asked the clerk of the committee to immediately dispatch the notice of the summons to the affected ministries and be officially copied to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha; Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN); and the Chief of Staff to the President, Ibrahim Gambari, respectively.

Oke said the lawmakers had been forced to report the affected officials to the Presidency, being their employer, after several failed attempts to make them to respond to the said audit queries.

He said, “Today makes it the fifth time the Ministry of Works and Housing will be asking for another extension of time on the audit queries raised against it over the years. For how long shall we continue like this? Mr President honoured some people with public appointments but to pay him back, they will not be alive to their responsibilities. This is very unfortunate.

“We are only asking them to make appearances before the committee to clarify issues on financial infractions raised by the Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation, nothing more!”

Meanwhile, the committee has begun an investigation of the $40m allegedly missing from the Looted Funds Recovery Account domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria.

The committee said Governor of the CBN, Godwin Emefiele, failed to tender relevant documents before it to ascertain the status of recovered funds in the said account.

Oke insisted that the apex bank must bring all the relevant documents requested by the committee to aid its probe, with a view to recovering the money for the government.

Emefiele, who was represented by the Deputy Director, Banking Supervision, Mrs C. I. Iguadunasue, could not offer satisfactory explanations on the whereabouts of the funds in question.

The Chairman of the committee consequently ordered the CBN to “furnish the committee with documents of all recovered funds within seven days for proper investigation.”

CBN’s probe is based on a query from the Office of Auditor General of the Federation, which questioned the whereabouts of the funds.(Punch)

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