Auditor-General, Mr. Samuel Ukura-Why we can’t probe corporation, by EFCC, ICPC
Muhammad Bello and Omololu Ogunmade In view of the lack of clarity on the non-remittance of oil revenue by the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to the Federation Account, the federal government has taken the step to subject the state-run oil firm to integrity checks by the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation. The Auditor-General, Mr. Samuel Ukura, disclosed this yesterday to the House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts (PAC), saying his office had sent officials to audit the accounts of the corporation. Ukura also informed the committee that his office had trained 20 officials for the purpose of carrying out this assignment.“We trained 20 professionals in oil and gas sector auditing last year, and as I speak to you, they’re already on the field auditing the NNPC,” Ukura explained. On his office’s expenditure in 2013, Ukura said only 57 per cent of capital budget was implemented, as only N374 million out of the N627 million capital vote was released. He pointed out that the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) had directed his office to purchase cars only from Innoson Motors in line with the policy of encouraging local manufacturers. This led to the procurement of six vehicles out of the 15 it had planned to purchase, while N100 million out of the N180 million budgeted for vehicles was returned to the accountant-general’s office, as Innoson could not supply the cars. The auditor-general said they achieved a 100 per cent implementation under the recurrent expenditure plan. Equally, he said salaries were paid promptly, while hundreds of staff were trained, among others, for which N60 million was expended. However, chairman of the committee, Hon. Solomon Adeola Olamilekan (APC, Lagos), and other members expressed concern over the seeming conflicting figures contained in the document submitted to them by the auditor-general’s office. They also queried the rationale behind refunding N100 million to the government when there were other pressing projects to be carried out. Subsequently, it directed Ukura to provide all the relevant receipts for transactions made last year, saying as nobody audits that office, the committee is vested with the responsibility to do so. The auditor-general’s 2014 budget defence has been deferred till next Tuesday so as to enable him address inconsistencies in the documents submitted. In a related development, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday said it could not investigate allegations of non-repatriation of oil proceeds by NNPC because its hands were tied by National Assembly’s investigation into the matter. Similarly, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) said it was constrained by inadequate resources and technical manpower to carry out the probe. Both commissions spoke yesterday when they appeared before the Senate Committee on Drugs, Narcotics and Financial Crimes, to defend their 2014 budget proposals at the National Assembly. The acting Chairman of ICPC, Professor Olu Aina, told the committee that the “account of NNPC is so sophisticated that it will require us hiring experts to look into the account for us; but unfortunately, we do not have the means to do that.”On his part, EFCC Chairman, Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde, while answering questions from the committee, said EFCC would not commence investigations into the matter as long as the National Assembly is probing it. According to the EFCC boss, the commission would wait for the outcome of the probe before taking action, adding that corruption cases can’t be pursued based on mere assumptions, arguing that there must be concrete factors on which investigations can be predicated. He also said the commission would wait for the outcome of the forensic audit on the certified expenditure of NNPC, which he said would be very helpful in the investigation, adding that the matter required careful scrutiny as a result of the inconsistency over figures.“The issue about NNPC is already being investigated by the National Assembly. For every investigation, once the National Assembly is on it, we have to wait until they conclude.“For instance, the fuel subsidy investigation on which we have charged so many people to court, including the son of the immediate past PDP (Peoples Democratic Party) national chairman, we did not get into the matter until it was concluded by the National Assembly and forwarded to us.“We can’t just get into something that is still being investigated by the National Assembly. It’s not a mob kind of thing. There must be a sequence of events that would lead us to taking a decision. Let the hearing of the National Assembly be concluded. Normally, when it is concluded, it is forwarded to us for investigation.“I think people are in a hurry. What people want to hear is that just because there is an issue today, tomorrow you are shouting, ‘kill him, stone him…’ We don’t do investigations by the media. When we are ready to charge the individual to court, we will do so. But when an investigation is on going, let the investigation be conclusive. Otherwise, we will join what everybody is saying.“It is very easy to say the anti-corruption agencies should look into it. However, when this controversy started, we had about three figures. One figure would emerge today, it would change to another figure tomorrow and we arrived at another figure the next day.“Now, we have settled more or less for $20 billion. The Minister of Finance said that they would commission an audit firm to do a forensic auditing of the finances of the NNPC. You need a professional firm to handle this. It’s the same documents that the auditors would use that we will also use.“This is not a common investigation. These are very technical things. Let the audit be carried out. Let’s know exactly what we are talking about, understand what the figures are and then criminal investigation can follow. You can’t start an investigation on nothing. You need a foundation. You can’t put a super structure without a base. So we need that base to put our own investigation on it,” Lamorde submitted.