Senate probes NOA over N2bn unretired cash advances to staff

*Uncovers another disbursement of N129m cash

By Peter Usman//:

Senate Committee on Public Accounts has commenced the probe of the National Orientation Agency, NOA over payment of N2 billion as cash advances to some of its staff members, but remained unretired or unaccounted for.

Similarly, the agency also paid N129 million cash to other staff members instead of paying the money directly into their accounts as stipulated in circular on E-payment Ref No. TRY/A8&B8/2008 OAGF/CAD/026/VOL.11/465 dated 22nd October, 2008.

Action of the Senate panel, chaired by Senator Mathew Urhoghide (PDP Edo South), was based on the 2016 Report of the Auditor General for the Federation.

When queried on the expenses, NOA, rather than attaching the vouchers used in spending the N2 billion to the documents submitted to the committee, only presented journals to justify the expenditure which was not accepted by members of the committee.

But the Director General of the agency, Garba Abari pleaded for more time to look for relevant vouchers supporting the expenditure, saying he was alarmed about the figure involved in the expenditure.

However, neither Abari nor any official of NOA could explain how N129million was spent when a member of the committee, Senator Peter Nwaboshi (PDP Delta North) asked them questions to that effect.

After the much heated debate on the two expenses, the committee yielded to the request of the Director General for more time to address issues raised in the query and thereafter adjourned the meeting for NOA till May 27 for proper preparation by the officials.

The panel noted in its query to the agency “a  sum  of  N1.9 billion being cash advance  to  some  members  of  staff  of  the  agency, was  left  unretired  as  at  31st December,  2014”, adding that “in 2015,  additional  outstanding  advances  amounting  to N108.4 million  was  recorded,  thereby  bringing  the total to  N2 billion.”

“The  practice of  not retiring advances granted to staff  contravened  the provision of Financial  Regulation  1405  which  stipulates  that  accounting  officers  are  responsible  for ensuring  prompt  repayment  of  all  advances  by  installments  or  otherwise. 

“Furthermore, advances register was  not  properly maintained and retirement file not kept in line with Financial Regulation1404 which requires each accounting officer of a ministry/extra ministerial office and other arms of government to ensure that advances  account records are fully indexed and maintained to record advances issued and all recoveries made,” it stressed.

But, NOA in a written response stated: “After careful examination of our books, it was found that the figures are programme expenses and ought to have been expenses after retirement and not to be capitalized and carried forward in our statement of financial position in the general purpose financial statement, GPFS.”

The second query reads: “Examination  of  the  agency’s payment vouchers revealed  that  payments totalling N129,036,700.00  (One  hundred  and  twenty-nine  million, thirty-six thousand, seven hundred  naira) violated  the  provision  of  the  circular on  e-payment Ref  No. TRY/A8&B8/2008 OAGF/CAD/026/VOL.11/465 dated  22nd  October,  2008  which stipulates that all employees of the Federal  Government of  Nigeria must open an account with a commercial bank  into which all payments due to him/her must be paid and  on  no  account  should  the  Central  Pay  Officer,  CPO  collect cash from the  bank  for the purpose of disbursement to  a government official or contractor.

“As a result, the expenditures cannot be accepted as legitimate charges against public funds. The Director General should justify the breach of extant regulations. Otherwise, the  officers  that  authorized  the  payments  should  be  sanctioned  in  compliance  with Financial Regulation 3128.”

NOA, in a written response, stated: “The payment in question were accumulation of several payments made over a period of time while the agency was carrying out its various programmes.

“The urgency and nature of the agency’s programme sometimes necessitate it to use the programme accountant to disburse money to individuals who may not have accounts or are constrained by time and circumstances to quickly access their bank as most of these programmes are time bound.”

However, the agency was unable to present any document justifying disbursement of the N129 million to the committee.

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