By Sanni Onogu, Abuja
The Senate Committee on Public Accounts has alleged uncovered N848 million and $1.5 million financial fraud committed by officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tel-Aviv, Israel.
The committee, chaired by Matthew Urhoghide, reportedly uncovered the alleged scam.
The report of the Auditor General of the Federation (AuGF), Anthony Ayine, was said to have indicted the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs over the discovery.
Apparently not satisfied with the alleged financial impropriety, Urhoghide reportedly directed that the former permanent secretary in the ministry be compelled to account for the mismanaged funds.
The senator said those who committed the infractions should be revealed for further action.
A representative of the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Salawu Zubair, was unable to provide appropriate answers to the queries raised by the AuGF in his report before the Senate Committee.
The AuGF’s report reads: “The sum of $858,704.50 was generated as revenue in respect of visa and administrative charges for the period 2013 to 2015. The following irregularities were observed.
“Treasury book 6A and Treasury Book 6 revenue booklets were not kept, and consequently not made available.
“Revenue collector’s registers with details of TR6A and relevant amounts were not maintained.
“Revenue cash books were not updated with relevant entries throughout 2014.
“The permanent secretary has been requested to explain these irregularities in revenue collection, account for $858,704.50 collected as well as carry out the surcharge of officers involved; otherwise, the full weight of financial regulations 3112 (1) should be applied, forwarding evidence of action taken for audit verification.
“The sum of $187,554.49 was transferred from revenue to overhead accounts, as revealed in the revenue cash books of 2013 and 2015.
“The amount was claimed to have been borrowed from the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) Account for the period but was never paid back. This action contravenes financial regulations 236.
“The Permanent Secretary has been requested to recover the entire amount and forward evidence of recovery and remittance to government chest for audit verification.
“Audit examination revealed that out of the sum $305,577 was unaccounted for.
“It was also observed that between 2013 and 2015 the sum of N517,247,500.8 was remitted to the embassy.
“The sum for capital, personnel and overhead cost: these remittances were all paid into one account. This is a violation of financial regulations 701 which requires separate bank accounts to be maintained for capital and overhead to enable transparent rendition of expenditure return in accordance with budgetary provisions.
“The expenditure return rendered by the embassy cannot be admissible as a true reflection of transaction of the lumping of expenditure remittances (personnel, overhead and capital) into bank account.
“The Permanent Secretary has been requested to explain these banking irregularities and revert to the separation of bank accounts in accordance with statutory regulations, forwarding evidence of action taken for audit verification.
“During the audit examination of payment voucher, the total sum of $158,000 was paid as estacode allowance to home-based workers to accompany Christian pilgrims from Nigeria to various religious sites.
“However, it was revealed while going through the supporting documents attached to the payment voucher that these pilgrims were usually accompanied by the Nigerian Pilgrims Commission; hence, there is no need for embassy workers to escort them.
“The Permanent Secretary has been requested to stop further wastage of statutory allocations on meaningless pilgrimage tours that will aid the embassy on accomplishing its mandate and in informing me accordingly on action taken.
“During the verification of the AIEs extracted from the ministry into the AIEs files maintained at the Nigerian Embassy in Tel-Aviv, it was observed that AIEs totalling N331 million extracted from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not reflect at the embassy.
“The Permanent Secretary has been requested to explain why these AIEs totalling N331 million were not recorded and accounted for in the embassy files or recover the total amount and forward the recovery particulars to me for verification.”