By Christiana Ekpa
The House of Representatives on Wednesday resolved to carry out a comprehensive investigation into how the sum of N343 million spent by the Ministry of Water Resources and for what projects as well as why the Ministry refused to give the vouchers covering the amount to the Auditor General for audit.
The House also said the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Abdulkadir Muazu was not competent to handle and public office and demanded that he appear unfailingly before the House committee on Public Account on Thursday to answer audit queries from the office of the Auditor General of the Federation.
Chairman of the House Committee on Public Account, Rep. Oluwole Oke who spoke at an investigative hearing into audit queries issued to government agencies by the Auditor General of the Federation said the failure of the Permanent Secretary to appear before the committee was a clear indication that he was not competent to handle the office give to him.
According to him, “We invited the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Agriculture to come before parliament to answer audit queries and he refused to appear and did not even send any representation. This is a clear indication that he is incompetent to handle public office.
“The Head of Service of the Federation should take note of this. Mr. President can only give an opportunity to serve, but he is not going to do the job for you. However, he must cause appearance on Thursday. Otherwise, we will be forced to invoke the relevant laws against him”.
The Public Accounts Committee spent over two hours interrogating the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Water Resources, Mrs. Comfort Ekaro on the various audit queries against the Ministry and how several allocations for projects under the ministry was spent.
Oke told the Permanent Secretary to furnish the House details of the N343 million whose vouchers were not presented to the Auditor General for audit was spent, whether the projects outlined in the vouchers presented to the Committee were budgeted for and whether they were captured in the procurement plan of the Ministry for 2017.
The Committee Chairman directed the Clark of the Committee to write the Director General of the Corporate Affairs Commission requesting the names of owners of companies who benefited from the N343 million contract as well as the Executive chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service requesting information on withholding tax from the companies.
The Committee however expressed displeasure that the Ministry made a contractor to obtain a bank facility of N137 million as down payment for an earth dam in Igbuzor in Delta state in 2013, while paying them N75 million in two instalment.
Oke said the action of the Ministry may have destroyed the corporate image of the organization, adding that paying the full mobilisation of N137 million in 2017, two years after the project was supposed to have been completed was not good enough for the country.
The Auditor General had, in his query said that the contract for the construction of the earth dam in Igbuzor, Delta state was awarded at the cost of over N800 million in December 2013 with a completion period of 18 months, lamenting two years after the award of the contract, only N75 million had been paid to the contractor.
He said finding by his office was indicative of the fact that there was no concrete payment plan for the project and several other projects within the Ministry, leading to delay in execution of such projects.
The Permanent Secretary told the committee that the Ministry had no money to fund the project because it was consistently removed from the budget.
Similarly, the committee frown at the funding process for the Adada Water project in Enugu state awarded at the cost of N2.578 billion with a completion period of 24 months in 2010.
Even though the Permanent Secretary told the Committee that the project was currently 98 percent completed, they were not happy that five years after the contract was awarded, only about N488.7 million was paid to the contractor by the government.
She said poor budgetary allocation was responsible for the poor payment made to the contractor, adding that in most cases money budgeted for the project were not released.