The Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation has accused the management of Nigeria Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC), led by the Executive Secretary, Yewande Sadiku, of unlawfully spending the sum of N4.97 billion within four years
However, the Auditor General has directed the commission to refund the sum of N436.3 million and to also recover the sum of N155.5 million.
The Auditor General made this known in a 41-page report covering the period between January 1, 2016 and December 31, 2019.
The report, also indicted the commission for setting aside the sum of N1.7 billion as operating surplus to establish a staff housing loan scheme and a post-service benefit scheme.
The audit report, which was communicated to the NIPC boss on April 28 by the Department of Revenue and Economic Sector at the Office of the Auditor-General, further indicted the commission for spending the sum of N1 billion Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) without approval from the Federal Executive Council (FEC) as required by existing regulations.
The report pointed out that NIPC could not get authorisation from the Accountant-General as it is purported to do, as only the FEC “can approve any expenditure that is capital in the nature of that magnitude”.
The audit report also revealed that the sum of N429 million was spent on international trips of the Executive Secretary between 2016 and 2018 without evidence of approval from the Head of Service as required by the 2015 circular.
It stated: “While the international trainings were funded by the commission, (there is) no single evidence (e.g. air tickets, training fees receipt, certificate of attendance etc.) to substantiate the trips.”
The report, therefore, recommended that the NIPC should provide evidence of attendance at the foreign events.
It said: “The management should as a matter of urgency provide this office with the approval or have every kobo spent on international trainings refunded to the sub-treasury of the federal government.”
The report recommended that the NIPC should recover the sum of N155.5 million awarded to unlisted companies and unlawfully spent on international trips for governing council members, among other unlawful expenses.
The report further directed the staff of the commission to refund the sum of N29.8 million, money got from the “willful disregard” of the estacode supplementation approval rates, and N12.3 million, proceeds of illegally monetised annual leave.
The report also asked the Executive Secretary to refund over N266 million, including money spent on business instead of economy air tickets, duplicated estacodes, wages paid to auxiliary workers, irregular payment of foreign leave allowance, and an irregular contract award.
Other monies recommended to be refunded by the commission included N70 million spent twice on the same budget items (computer software and publicity material acquisition) in 2019, N29.7 million spent on a contract awarded to an unregistered company and N28.5 million paid “without contractual relationship and evidence of work done” in connection to a constituency project.
The report fingered the NIPC of awarding contracts above the approved threshold, having irregularities in procurement processes, having duplicated expenditures running into hundreds of millions, paying a non-contracted travel agent, paying employees of other government agencies allowances they were not entitled to, paying for tax consultancy services despite having an accounts department with over 30 members, among others.
The audit report observed that the commission illegitimately approved a revised IGR budget for 2018 to the tune of N4 billion, the action according to the report, contravened an existing circular that requires annual budgets to go through the National Assembly.
The report said: “In its view, the commission is in the habit of circumventing the award process(es).”
Aside from the issues of mismanagement raised, the audit report noted a “high risk of material misstatement” as well as sub-standard and misleading reporting in the financial statement of 2016.
The report said for example, while N150.7 million was paid to staff members and others for foreign trips according to payment vouchers, only N43.3 million was recognised in the statement.
The audit report, therefore, accused the NIPC of a deliberate refusal to compute operating surplus for 2018 and 2019.
However, the report quoted Sadiku to have explained that it was due to the non-approval of financial statements for the years by the governing board, but the auditors insisted that there was no correlation there.
The report said some of the risks arising from how the NIPC is run, including loss of government fund and reduction in revenue, extra-budgetary expenses, bid-rigging and manipulation, litigation, deliberate delay in remittance, and waste of government resources, and willful violation of government policies.
Against this background, the report directed the management of NIPC to send observations within 21 days in preparation for the final audit report.