Missing $20bn: House gives govt one week ultimatum to release forensic audit report

Nigeria House of Representatives.

Nigeria House of Representatives.

*As Senate pegs oil benchmark at $52, exchange rate at N190 per dollar
*Slashes SURE-P vote with N100m, capital and recurrent expenditure

Oscarline Onwuemenyi

26 February 2015, Sweetcrude, Abuja –
The fight over the missing $20 billion oil fund is far from over as the House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts yesterday issued a one-week ultimatum to the country’s finance minister, Dr Okonjo-Iweala and the auditor-general of the federation (AuGF) Mr Samuel Tokura, to forward to it the full report of the forensic audit of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

The House Committee threatened sanctions if the listed parties failed to forward the forensic audit report released by PricewaterhouseCoopers, the reputable firm hired to probe the allegation.

Chairman of the committee, Hon. Solomon Olamilekan Adeola, disclosed this yesterday at a media briefing in Abuja.

Adeola (APC, Lagos) recalled that following the allegation that about $20 billion was un-remitted by the NNPC to the federation account by the former CBN governor, the minister of finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, had commissioned PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to carry out a forensic audit on the matter.

He lamented that several weeks had passed and several demands had been made by the committee to the executive and a resolution of the House had been passed demanding the full report,” but we have not been given the full report.”

According to him, the minister is “a culpable official if the allegation is proven” that the firm to carry out the forensic audit was commissioned and appointment by her “without the involvement, or at least the input of the auditor-general whose office is eminently and exclusively empowered for the duty by the 1999 constitution.

“It took quite a while and the public outcry for snippets of the report to surface, albeit in the press. Mr President was reported to have direct the auditor-general to study, analyse and release the report to the press. A highly condensed version of the report was eventually released as directed,” he said.

In an interview with the Financial Times of London, published Monday, Nigeria’s Petroleum Minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, said the government could not publish the report ahead of elections as only the country’s Auditor General has the powers to do so.

Even more importantly, the minister said the government was not making the report public to avoid a “rabid opposition”- a reference to the APC – from finding “all sorts of minute detail (in the full report) to create concern”.

But, citing Section 85 of the 1999 constitution, Adeola said the House needs the full report for its oversight work, adding that since the auditor-general had already put the report in the public domain, it is also important that he should lay it before the National Assembly.

The chairman, therefore, gave the AuGF one week to submit the report on behalf of the federal government.

“The full report on the forensic audit by PwC, which must include the initial draft report, the executive summary, management/internal control letters, should be forwarded to the National Assembly not later than one week from today (yesterday),” he stated.

Adeola, who described report as “curious” noted that by virtue of section 85(6) of the constitution, the AuGF ought not to be directed by Mr President to deal with the report “in a particular manner,” adding that the report had been unduly delayed.

Meanwhile, the Senate yesterday moved to peg the oil benchmark at $52 and the exchange rate at N190 to the dollar.

This was contained in the report of the Senate Joint Committee on Finance and National Planning, Economic Affairs and Poverty Alleviation on the 2015-2017 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper which was passed by the committee.

The recommendations, as adopted by the senators, also provided that the total expenditure of Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P) be reduced from N102.50 billion to N21.03 billion due to fall in the price of crude oil, while details of projects under SURE-P should be attached to the annual budget estimates for approval by the National Assembly.

Concerned that the monitoring of kerosene subsidy is difficult for lawmakers, the senators called for its scrapping if no progress is recorded on the implementation, availability and accessibility of the domestic fuel.

Similarly, the Senate approved the downward review of the petrol subsidy payment from N200bn to N100bn while kerosene subsidy was reduced from N91.08bn to N45.52bn, due to the falling price of crude.

On the total recurrent projection, the Senate reduced it from N2.616trn to N2.584trn and increased the total capital expenditure from N633.53bn to N7000.78bn.

Total statutory transfers were reduced from N411.85bn to N363.27bn and total non-oil revenue increased from N3,539.07trn to N4, 024.11trn.

In his contribution to the report, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Rules and Business, Senator Ita Enang (PDP, Akwa Ibom North East) stressed the need to diversify the economy and source for additional funds from non-oil sectors. He noted that the solid mineral sector can generate revenue for the country if given enough appropriation.

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