By Kauthar Anumba-Khaleel
The House of Representatives has issued the minister of finance, Kemi Adeosun a one month ultimatum to return to the federation account the sum of N11.2 million allegedly embezzled by officials of the ministry.
The ultimatum was given yesterday by the Committee on Public Accounts after it alleged that the sum was pocketed by the officials under the guise of organizing a seminar for some stakeholders in an unnamed location in the country.
The ministry claimed that N4.980 million was for the seminar, the balance of N6. 252 million were withholding taxes it deducted from payments to contractors in 2010, which were not remitted to Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) as required by law.
The revelations were among four queries brought against the ministry by the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation, in the ministry’s financial transactions in 2010.
At a hearing on the queries, Hon. Kingsley Chinda-led committee alleged that in an attempt to cover up the financial abuses, the ministry falsified documents which were tendered as evidence before the committee. The documents were consequently referred to the Nigeria Police for cross -examination and subsequent advice.
The lawmakers also frowned at the action of the ministry in granting N46.9 million cash advances to 18 of its staff within the period, for procuring stationery and others office items without retirements as at when due and mandated Adeosun to issue queries to the affected workers to serve as deterrence to others.
Chinda said the actions of the ministry in approving the advances and tolerating late retirements of expenditures, were against the approved government’s financial regulations.
In another query, the committee frowned at non-verifiable claim by the ministry that it actually remitted another N85.587 million to FIRS as taxes arising from four contracts it awarded between March and June 2010 to Reynolds Construction Company (RCC) and A & K Construction Ltd.
To that effect, the committee directed the ministry to reconcile its VAT receipts with the tax authorities, as they were also misleading and appeared fake.
Regards to another query, the House committee set up a three -man panel to visit the ministry and ascertain its claim on executed contracts for the supply and installation of PVC vertical blinds in its offices.
Earlier, the permanent Secretary of the ministry, Mahmoud Isa-Dutse had attempted to dissuade the committee from penalizing the ministry for its alleged indiscretions in financial approvals, expenditures and remittances when he said that the ministry has forwarded documentary evidences absolving the ministry of any financial abuse to the committee.
He however pleaded for more time to enable the ministry return with authenticated evidences to back up the numerous charges by the AGF.
The AGF in the queries, urged the parliament to ask for refund of the funds by the ministry, in line with the anti corruption tenets of President Muhammadu Buhari.
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By Kauthar Anumba-Khaleel