Wednesday, June 23, 2021

NPA: How Amaechi ignored Auditor-General’s caution, misled Buhari into suspending Bala Usman

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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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The Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, has misled President Muhammadu Buhari into approving the suspension of the managing director of the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, Hadiza Bala Usman, despite auditor-general’s letter faulting the minister’s plan to audit the agency.

The presidency on Thursday announced that the president had approved the prayers of the minister to set up a panel of inquiry and suspend Ms Usman pending the conclusion of the investigation.

“The President has also approved that the Managing Director, Hadiza Bala Usman, step aside while the investigation is carried out. Mr Mohammed Koko will act in that position,” presidential spokesman Garba Shehu said in the announcement.

DAILY NIGERIAN gathered that the managing director, who was at loggerheads with the minister, was not queried prior to her suspension.

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This newspaper reliably gathered that Mr Amaechi’s failure to stop the renewal of the tenure of Ms Usman worsened the rivalry, forcing the minister to devise a way of terminating the managing director’s tenure midway.

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The subterfuge formally began on March 4, when Mr Amaechi wrote a letter to the president complaining that NPA had not remitted an “operating surplus of N165 billion to the consolidated Revenue Fund Account (CFR) from 2016 till date” and requested the president to approve an audit of the account and remittance of NPA for the period.

Thirteen days later, Mr Buhari gave the minister approval for the audit without carefully reviewing the request.

In a letter by the permanent secretary, Ministry of Transport, Magdalene Ajani, and dated April 6, the minister asked the Auditor-General of the Federation, to appoint reputable auditors to undertake the task.

In his response, the auditor-general of the federation, Adolphus Aghughu, said the NPA accounts had already been audited by external auditors up to 2019, which is up to date in the auditing cycle.

Mr Aghughu also said his office conducted periodic checks for the years 2016-2018 and issued periodic checks reports along with comments on their annual accounts and auditor’s reports.

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He said with reputable professional audit firms already being engaged by the NPA board in line with the enabling law, there is no justification for the ministry to advertise and select audit firms to conduct the exercise.

In her response to a letter sent by the chief of staff to the president, Ibrahim Gambari, conveying the president’s directive on the matter, Ms Usman urged Mr Gambari to request the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, who are the statutory custodians of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, CRF, to clarify the matter and establish the true position of the NPA as regards to the remittances.

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“Accordingly, the figures so provided by the Budget Office of the Federation as the Operating Surplus for the respective years on which basis they arrived at the shortfall are derived from submission of budgetary provision not the actual amounts derived following the statutory audit of the Authorities financial statements,” Ms Usman said in a letter seen by DAILY NIGERIAN.

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“The Authority’s computation of its remittances to the CFR are concluded arising from numbers from Audited Financial Statements using the template forwarded to the Authority from the Fiscal Responsibility Commission as herewith attached and not budgetary provision.

“The authority has remitted the full amount due to it to CFR for the periods of 2017 and 2018 arising from the Operating Surplus derived from the Audited Financial Statement for the period totalling N76.384 billion as evidenced in attached treasury receipts.

“The Authority has remitted a total of N82.687 billion for the period 2019 and 2020 pending the audit of the financial statement at which point the amount so computed arising from the value of the Operating Surplus in the audited financial statement will be remitted to the CFR.”

 

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