Reps queries staff recruitment, lack of audit at Federal Poly, Nekede

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The House of Representatives Public Accounts Committee (PAC), last week resolved to summon the Director General of the Budget Office, Mr Ben Akabueze, to explain why he cut the number of approved staff to be recruited at the Federal Polytechnic Nekede, in Imo State.

The panel also summoned the deputy director in charge of Tertiary Institutions at the Federal Ministry of Education to explain why he/she would advise the institution not to appoint an external auditor using the absence of Governing Council as a reason.

The committee led by Oluwole Oke (PDP, Osun), had engaged the institution’s management led by the Rector, Dr Michael Arimanwa to defend an audit query against it to the effect that it failed to render its audited account for 2018 and 2019.

The Rector, in his response had told the panel that audit has not been done for 2018 and 2019 due to institutional challenges arising from external auditor’s mandate which expired, adding that the institution was to engage another auditor but couldn’t as the tenure of the governing council also expired before that could be done.

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“…and we were asked to wait since it’s the responsibility of the council to approve the appointment of an external auditor as directed by the Ministry.”

Asked if there is a written directive to that effect, he answered to the affirmative, with the panel asking for a copy of the document, just as he directed them to page 10 of the document submitted and dated 10 August 2020.

Oke said, “They might be thinking what they did is right but as a parliament, it’s our duty to correct them”, and ruled that the Ministry should cause an appearance before the committee, as they may have issued similar directives to other institutions.

Oke cited Section 85 (3) of the Constitution which provides for how an external auditor is engaged.

Oke informed the Rector that, “in Section 20 of the Procurement Act, you are to be held liable because it’s immaterial as to whether the Council or the Ministry gives you a go-ahead or not.”

According to him, the Rector violated the Constitution by not preparing and submitting audited accounts of his institution as required.

At this point, the representative of the Auditor General of the Federation at the panel further advised the Rector to adhere to the rulings of the panel and do the right thing as stated by law, so as to avoid being held liable, notwithstanding the instructions from the Ministry.

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The panel further examined the institution’s budget performances for the years under review, finding that a total of 450 staff were to be recruited but the Budget Office cut it down to 286, as captured by IPPIS (Integrated Personnel Payment Information System), for payments, despite the fact that the school has the funds to cater for them.

The Rector told the panel that most of its capital projects with regards to infrastructure are carried out by Tetfund.

Panel however commended the management for generating N2.3bn in 2018 and N2.5bn in 2019 as revenue.

On the N290m spent on consultancy in 2018, and N363m on same in 2019, the panel asked for explanations, citing Sections 16 and 18 of the Procurement Act was as operational guide for award of contracts.

The Rector responded that the budget details were not readily available for him to avail the panel of, but that such would be provided as soon as possible.

Panel therefore ruled that the institution must provide details of its IT consultancy, irregular allowances, road construction running into hundreds of millions as they relate to the approved budgets for the years under review.

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The rector however said the non regular allowances were monies paid to part-time lecturers since the school is under staffed.

Committee also ruled that the Rector furnish it with procurement planning records, technical bid evaluation and financial bid evaluation report to justify expenses from its IGR.

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