BUSINESS NEWS

Senate demands FRC to refund N94m spent on unoccupied building, others

NEWSMAN, Abuja – Senate Public Accounts Committee has directed the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria to refund to the federation account, N66 million the agency paid as a two-year rent to secure an accommodation which it did not occupy throughout the period.

Similarly, the Committee, under the chairmanship of Senator Mathew Urhoghide, also faulted the agency’s use of 64 vouchers to allegedly divert N28m.

The panel was currently scrutinising the 2015 to 2018 report of the Auditor General for the Federation.

AuGF had in its report, queried the FRC for investing N66m on accommodation it never occupied.

“It was observed that, on 21/11/16 the sum of N42m was paid as rent to Japaul Oil and Maritime
Services for an office space at Japaul Building. N23.4m was paid to Sola Oluseyi & Co, as legal and agency fee for the office space, making a total of N66m for two years ending 1/1/2019.

“The Council is yet to move into the building, 20 months running with 4 months to its expiration. (as of 2019)”, he disclosed.

He explained that “This anomaly was due to the failure of the Executive Secretary (of the FRC during the period) to exercise due diligence in the application of public funds by ensuring that value is received for money expended.

“The Council carried out expenditure of such magnitude and yet fail to receive value.

“Huge sum of money was paid for rent by the Council, but failed to occupy the building, this amounts to waste of government resources”, he stated.

However, the FRC in its written response claimed that it was carrying out repairs and partitioning of the building while the rent was running.

The FRC response reads, “Management’s response was that, upon the acquisition of the office accommodation at the
Japaul House, there was need to give the property a face-lift including partitioning befitting of an office.

“However, there was change of Executive Secretary in 2017, which slowed the process of award of contract.

“Secondly, the Landlord was not willing to renew the tenancy agreement after the expiration of the current agreement.

“The Management further remarked that, the Council is taking steps to utilize the building and secure a further lease from the Landlord.

Another query raised by the AuGF against the FRC reads, “During the audit, it was observed that sixty four (64) payment vouchers for the sum of
N28,765,842.11 were raised and paid without the Internal Audit stamps and dates, in contravention with the provisions of extant laws and regulations.

AuGF also noted that this infraction was due to the failure of the Executive Secretary to strictly comply with the provisions of law and laid down procedures aimed at the strengthening the internal control system in government agencies. Payments arising from vouchers not pre audited cannot be accepted as judicious charge against public funds, Punch reported.

The Chairman of the Committee however ordered a Former Executive Secretary of the FRC, Jim Obazee, to return a total of N94m spent under his watch at the agency, to the Federation Account.


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