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Senators kick over N145m PIB media campaign fund

The Senate has uncovered how one of the management staff in the Ministry of Petroleum Resources paid N145 million Petroleum Industrial Bill (PIB) media campaign fund to self instead of awarding the contract to competent companies for execution.

 

The Senate Committee on Public Account has demanded the refund of the N145 million to the federation account. This fraudulent practice is contained in the 2015 Report of the Auditor-General of the Federation, which was submitted to the Senate Committee on Public Account for consideration and appropriate legislative action. Chairman of the committee, Senator Mathew Urhoghide (PDP, Edo South), tasked the representative of the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Petroleum, Mr. Godwin Akubo, to explain the reported fraudulent act.

 

The Auditor-General’s query reads: “The total sum of N145 million was approved by the Ministerial Tender Board (MTB) and paid to one of the management staff for electronic bill board advertisement, television jingles and newspaper publications for the campaign awareness of the PIB, instead of contract award to competent and technically experienced companies through open competitive bidding in order to ensure transparency and accountability.

 

“Invoices and receipts of payment showed from the purported companies and agencies, whose services were engaged in the implementation of the programme, were not tendered for audit.”

 

After the query was read, Akubo, in his response, further infuriated the committee by attempting to cover up the questionable transaction. He said: “Director of Press has wealth of experience with coverage.

 

His key role or involvement bridged the gap between the ministry and media houses based on the public relations. “He helped to fast track and reached out to target audience in good time, therefore, his service was blessing to the ministry.”

 

However, he was unable to tender invoices and receipt of the N145 million for PIB media campaign, thereby attracting the wrath of the committee chairman and other members. Consequently, Senator Urhoghide sustained the query by the Auditor-General and demanded the re

fund of the N145 million to the federation account. Some of such questionable transactions unravelled by the Senate Committee on Public Account while going through the Auditor-General’s report on the Ministry, include how the ministry spent N14.5 million for the supply of Schneider biros, N46 million for the ministry’s letter headed papers and N56 million for the supply of tonners. In the report, the Auditor- General actually raised a query on to the ministry, to offer vivid explanations on why such huge funds should be spent on the items stated. The query reads: “The contract for the supply of Schneider biros worth N14.5 million which was split into smaller packages of less than N5 million each was awarded to four different companies

in  order to circumvent the permanent secretary’s approval threshold of N5 million. “Similarly, the contract for the printing of the ministry’s letter headed papers worth N46 million was also split and awarded to 11 different contractors. “Also, the contract for the supply of tonners worth N56 million was split and awarded to seven different contractors.

 

The Permanent Secretary has been requested to explain this contravention of the Public Procurement Act, 2007.” Responding, Akubo claimed that the ministry took the actions as a response to sundry needs of different departments in the oil ministry, insisting that the contracts awards followed prescribed rules and procedures.

 

He said: “The action of the Ministry was a quick response to need of the various departments in the Ministry of Petroleum Resources. These awards followed normal rules and procedures. The contracts were not split. They were awarded to the various contractors at different times when the items were needed.

 

“The sum of N46.6 million used for printing of letter headed papers followed due process and large sums of money is explained by the volume of the letter headed papers produced for most of departments as per attached different letter headed papers.”

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