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Published On: Mon, Dec 16th, 2019

Reps frowns at engagement of technical assistants by HPAC

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By Christiana Ekpa

Some concerned members of the House of Representatives have expressed displeasure over the unilateral appointment of two external Technical Assistants to the House Committee on Public Accounts.
According to copies of the two letters made available to Parliamentary Correspondents at the weekend, the Clerk of the House Committee on Public Accounts, Barrister Usman Ibrahim via two letters dated 4th October, 2019, announced the appointments of the two Technical Assistants, namely: Mr. Seidu Amodu and Mr. John Okpeke Ogidi commenced on the 23rd September, 2019 without approval from the appropriate quarters.
A copy of the letter now in possession of the Peoples Daily reads : “Following our earlier discussion on the above subject matter, I wish to convey the approval of the Department for your engagement as Technical Assistant to the Committee, commencing 23rd October, 2019 and subject to renewal after two years
“I wish to inform you that your schedule of.duties include, analysing MDA’s responses to Auditor-General’s reports prior to the sessions and making recommendations, taking of minutes of Hearings/Meetings, participating in report writing and any other duties as may be assigned by the Head of Department
“You are requested to report to the Head of Department for further instructions”.
However, when contacted on the development, Chairman, House Committee on Pubkic Accounts, Hon. Wole Oke denied knowledge of the appointments and declined further comments for his tight schedules.
This came just as other members of the Committee who frowned at the development described the action of the Clerk as absolute disregard for the Parliament and the National Assembly bureaucracy, hence vowed to investigate on whose authority such appointments were initiated and for what purposes since such had never happened in the previous sessions.
One of the ranking lawmakers who spoke under condition of anonymity argued that the Clerk lacked the power to appoint unilaterally under any circumstances.
He maintained that “the powers to appoint staff into any Committee is vested in the National Assembly Service Commission in the first instance while the powers to deploy staff is vested strictly on the Clerk of the House of Representatives.
The lawmaker also argued that even the National Assembly Act setting up the Committee does not confer such enormous power on the Clerk to the National Assembly to appoint technical assistants to the statutory or standing Committees
“So on whose authority does the Clerk appoints the two young men we suddenly met at the hearing?
“I can’t recall that the Chairman discussed such appointments with us at any forum,” he stressed, adding that the National Assembly bureaucracy has adequate manpower to carry out such duties
“How can you bring external people into such a sensitive Committee handling sensitive investigations, this is very strange and shocking to us, we will have to raise the issue at our next sitting to find out certain things and from there we will take up the matter with Clerk to the National Assembly”.
At the last sitting of the Committee on Friday, the two technical assistants were present and partook in the proceedings of the Committee adorning temporary Identifications of the National Assembly.
The Committee is a creation of the 1999 Construction as amendment and saddled with the responsibility of investigating all financial queries from the Auditor General of the Federation to government Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs.

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