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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Senate demands refund of N692m in contract scandal involving ministry of works

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The Senate has taken action on a scandal involving officials from the Federal Ministry of Works, who are accused of misappropriating N692 million in funds for the purchase of vehicles, computer accessories, photocopying services, and the production of a special video documentary. The Senate Public Accounts Committee, headed by Senator Mathew Urhoghide, reviewed the 2018 Report of the Auditor-General of the Federation and discovered fraudulent contracts awarded without due process. As a result, the Senate has ordered the ministry to refund the money to the federal government. This article delves into the details of the scandal and the committee’s findings.

The Senate Public Accounts Committee investigated the Auditor-General’s report, which revealed irregularities in the awarding of contracts by the Ministry of Works. One contract worth N343 million was awarded for the purchase of project monitoring vehicles, but due process was not followed, and the vehicles were never supplied. Another contract, valued at N139 million, was awarded for various services and the purchase of spare parts, computer accessories, and photocopying machine parts for the design of Nigerian roads and bridges.

The committee’s investigation exposed further financial irregularities. It was discovered that N210 million allocated for a documentary project was divided into N130 million and N80 million, which were deposited into a staff account, thus violating financial regulations. Additionally, the committee found that the 36 vehicles specified in one of the contracts were never received or documented properly in the ministry’s store records. Similarly, there was no evidence to prove the purchase of items related to the second contract, such as spare parts and accessories.

The Senate Public Accounts Committee extended invitations to officials from the Ministry of Works to address the allegations made by the Auditor-General of the Federation. However, the ministry’s officials ignored these invitations, leaving the committee with no choice but to uphold the auditor general’s position. The lack of cooperation further raised suspicions regarding the legitimacy of the contracts and the proper use of the allocated funds.

Based on the committee’s findings, the Senate unanimously supported the recommendation that the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Works be held accountable for the misappropriated funds. The Senate ordered the permanent secretary to refund the full amount to the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the federal government. This action serves as a stern message to deter corruption and ensure financial transparency within government ministries.

The Senate’s investigation into the scandal involving the Federal Ministry of Works has revealed significant financial misconduct. The fictitious contracts, lack of proper documentation, and misuse of funds have raised serious concerns. By ordering the refund of the misappropriated N692 million, the Senate aims to hold the ministry accountable and restore public trust in the handling of government resources. This case serves as a reminder of the importance of transparency, accountability, and adherence to due process in all government transactions.

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