Wednesday, February 1, 2023

How Amaechi’s panel exonerated Bala Usman of financial misappropriations

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Ibrahim Ramalan
Ibrahim Ramalan
Ibrahim Ramalan is a graduate of Mass Communications from the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria. With nearly a decade-long, active journalism practice, Mr Ramalan has been able to rise from a cub reporter to the exalted position of an editor; first as Arts Editor with the Blueprint Newspapers before resigning in 2019; second and presently as an Associate Editor of the Daily Nigerian online newspaper. He can be reached via [email protected], or www.facebook.com/ibrahim.ramalana, or @McRamalan on Twitter.
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An 11-man committee set up by the minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, to investigate the suspended managing director of Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, Hadiza Bala Usman, has exonerated her from financial misappropriations.

Ms Usman was suspended by President Muhammadu Buhari following allegations of non-remittance of N165 billion operating surplus to the coffers of the federal government, an allegation denied she denied.

Parts of the panel report sighted by DAILY NIGERIAN show that the managing director was not found wanting of corruption or non-remittance of N165billion.

The committee had submitted its report on January 10 after eight months of dilly-dally and alleged administrative schemings to delay presidential directive for her reinstatement.

The committee’s terms of reference include examining and investigating the administrative policies and strategies adopted by suspended NPA’s Managing Director, Hadiza Bala-Usman, and confirm compliance with extant laws and rules from 2016 till date.

”Examine and investigate issues leading to the termination of other contracts of NPA and confirm compliance with the terms of the respective contracts, court ruling and presidential directives; Examine and investigate compliance with communication channel, as obtained in the public service; Examine and investigate the procurement of contracts from 2016 to date,” a part of the committee’s terms of reference read.

Although the final report of the committee was not made public, sources and documents seen by this newspaper showed that the panel verified that she remitted N182.99 billion to the Consolidated Revenue Fund, CRF.

“NPA provided detailed summaries of Operating Surplus payments to the CRF for which the Sub-Treasurer of the Federation confirmed credit and issued receipts,” the report reads in part.

“A statement of the NPA position, in reference to the Budget Office of the Federation letter, clearly opined that:- ‘…budget performance cannot be the final yardstick in the determination of actual Operating Surplus due..the Audited Financial Statement is the ONLY source of information in determination of an entity’s financial performance globally… in line with section 22.2 and 23.3 of the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA) 2007…'” (Ann. VI)

The report, which put her entire tenure under scrutiny, said that all the figures were diligently reviewed and reconciled jointly by the NPA and the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, OAGF.

“According to a reconciliation exercise carried out jointly by the NPA and the OAGF, all relevant 2016 — May, 2021 documents/data were duly reviewed/reconciled and the reconciled figures arrived at were also fully remitted. (AGF Letter dated 30th August 2021, Ref. No. R&I/021/V/367) (Ann. VII)

“From January 2016 to May, 2021, the NPA has remitted N182.99 Bn to the CRF. The Panel verified from the records of the NPA, including the receipts issued by the Sub-Treasurer of the Federation, that all Operating Surplus remittances as captured in the AGF’s letter to the Panel tally,” the report reads.

Despite exonerating Ms Usman of corruption, the minister however issued her a query for “Serious Misconduct” as Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority between July 18 2016 and May 6 2021, directing her to reply within seven days.

Some of the issues raised in the query are alleged disregard of ministerial directive; procurement of the Operation of Truck Transit Park, TTP, for Port-Bound Trucks (e-Call Up); breach of channels of communication; purchase of operational vehicles, among others.

In her response to the issues, the embattled managing director denies flouting the minister’s directive and copiously explained in a 23-page letter why she did not go against the public service rules in discharging her duties as managing director.

Responding to allegations of flouting the minister’s directive, she replied: “The Bureau of Public Procurement responded to the request vide letter dated 18th June 2020 (copy attached herewith as Annexure 2) wherein in paragraph 6, the BPP noted the request for one year extension as directed by the HMT and conveyed by the Authority. The letter further stated in paragraph 7 that the BPP will only allow for the extension of the contract for 6 months to allow the Authority carry out the international bidding process. This position was conveyed to the HMT vide a letter dated 30th June 2020 with Reference: MD/10/FMT/VOL.XX/366 attached herein as Annexure 2B.

“The cancellation of the advert was published on 8th June 2020 in the Federal Tenders Journal and two other national dailies. This shows that I never disregarded the Minister’s directives but conveyed same to the BPP. The BPP however declined the request for one year extension and instead granted a six-month extension to allow for the Authority to conclude the ongoing bidding process. Any subsequent correspondences to the BPP on the six months apollo extension was to conclude the legal requirement of formalizing and obtaining a no objection for the extension of the 6 months that the BPP directed via their letter of 18th June 2020.

“On the issue of violating the Honourable Minister’s directive of 4th May 2020, I wish to state that the correspondences with the BPP on the extension of technical partners for the channel management was not for a fresh procurement process of a good or service that require the attention of MTB or FEC. On the contrary, it was seeking a no objection for the extension of an existing contract and such extensions do not require the attentions of either the MTB or FEC. Hence, there was no violation of HMT’s directive that all procurements of works, goods and service that require the attention of Ministerial Tenders Board (MTB), BPP or FEC from conception to implementation must involve the Ministry as conveyed in the letter dated 4th May 2020.

“Based on the explanation above, I would like to state that there was no refusal to carry out lawful instructions from superior officers – PR 030301 (m).”

On the purchase of vehicles, following EndSARS riots that led to arsons and destructions of public properties, including the NPA headquarters in Lagos, Mr Amaechi queried why the NPA purchased vehicles worth N1.277bn to replace the burnt ones without the approval of the Federal Executive Council.

In her response, Ms Usman said, “On Wednesday 21st October 2021 the Nigerian Ports Authority Headquarters Marina, Lagos was attacked by hoodlums. This attack wreaked havoc of high magnitude on the main building, the ancillary building, the car parks, the fire service posts, etcetera. In addition to all infrastructure and facilities lost to the mayhem, all the operational vehicles, personal vehicles of staffers at the car park and within the  premises were also burnt down. Operational vehicles are some of the critical facilities that the Authority relies on for the day-to-day running of her activities vis à-vis revenue generation. The callousness and destructive act of the protesters literarily brought the Authority to her kneels as operational activities towards revenue generation were hampered. To reverse the ugly trend and forestall further loss of revenue generation, the Authority decided to embark on replacement of the vehicles through emergency procurement which was the best, ideal and legitimate option in the circumstance.

“This procurement type was conducted in line with Sections 43 (1) (a), (2), (3) and (4) of Public Procurement Act 2007 (PPA) cited hereunder: 43-(1) “A procuring entity may for the purpose of this Act, carry out emergency procurement where;

“(a) The country is either seriously threatened by or actually confronted with a disaster, catastrophe, war, insurrection or Act of God;”

“(2) In an emergency situation, a procuring entity may engage in direct Contracting of goods, works and services. (3) All procurements made under emergencies shall be handle with expedition but along principles of accountability, due consideration being given to the gravity of each emergency. (4) Immediately after the cessation of the situation warranting any emergency procurement, the procuring entity shall file a detailed report thereof with the Bureau which shall verify same and if appropriate issue a Certificate of “No Objection”. You may wish to note that under emergency procurement, as stipulated in Sections 43-1, 2, 3 and 4 of the PPA cited above, the procuring entity are advised to proceed expeditiously with the execution of the emergency procurement and thereafter file detailed report to the Bureau of Public Procurement for verification and if appropriate will issue a Certificate of “No Objection”.

DAILY NIGERIAN understands the embattled managing director literally left no stone unturned in her 23-page reply to all the issues raised by the minister.

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