An inquiry into the alleged over $800 million indebtedness of the Nigerian Ports Authority to port operators has been launched by the House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts.
Oluwole Oke, the committee’s chairman, stated that the committee will move the probe closer to both parties in Lagos since the NPA needed to be there beside the port operators.
At the committee’s Friday investigation session in Abuja, Oke made this known.
“The parliament will move the hearing to Lagos where all parties will meet with us at Marriott Hotel in Ikeja between December 8 and 9. We hope to resolve this issue once and for all. Eight hundred million dollars is not small amount of money.”
The committee is also looking into why there were no employees hired by the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate in 2018 despite funding being approved for that purpose by the National Assembly.
In a report being examined by the committee, the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation said that while N1.7 billion had been authorized for PTAD as staff costs in 2018, only N1.4 billion had really been used, with the remaining N310 million being returned to the CRF.
However, the committee noted at its inquiry hearing on Friday that PTAD received the same N1.7 billion in personnel costs in 2019 even though no new employees were hired.
The query partly read, “In 2020, the agency’s allocation for personnel cost went up to N1.8bn, reducing to N1.6bn in 2021, going up again to N1.9bn in 2022, even when the workers have not been employed.”
While Oke pointed out that something was wrong, a senior officer of PTAD, Abdullah Abubakar, who represented the Executive Secretary, Dr. Chioma Ejikeme, said N1.7bn was budgeted for personnel cost in 2018 because the agency initially planned to employ new hands, adding that the balance of N310m was returned to the treasury.
Abubakar said, “Our personnel are handled by IPPIS. The balance of the money budgeted was returned to the CRF because we did not employ the staff that we needed to employ. Till date, we are still in need of those workers, but we are yet to get a waiver from the Head of Service to employ.”
According to him, the increase in expenditure, despite not employing new members of staff, was as a result of promotion of existing workers and the need to adjust their salaries in accordance with their new positions.
But according to Oke, “The Head of Service and the Federal Character Commission must have carried out a needed assessment on your agency leading to your request for funds to employ. We (parliament) gave you that money but you failed to use it. The complaint of most agencies has been lack of funds. But here (in PTAD), you got the funds you requested for and, yet, failed to use it. You have lied to the parliament through the President and has denied other agencies the use of that money.
“So, we need to see the assessment that was carried out on your agency that led to the parliament giving you this money. By not using this money for what it was meant for, you have committed an offence against the Appropriation Act. But we will give you a right of fair hearing to explain to us the reason(s) for your action.”