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Senate probes NSITF’s missing N17.16b

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The Senate has carpeted the management of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) for failure to justify its spending of N17.158 billion in 2013.

The Senate said the required evidential documents were said to have been eaten up by termites.

The amount, which is stated in the 2018 audit report, was reportedly transferred between January to December 2013 by NSITF from its Skye Bank and First Bank accounts into various untraceable accounts belonging to individuals and companies.

In its 2018 audit report, the Auditor General’s office raised 50 queries bordering on alleged misappropriation of funds by management of the agency, which are being looked into by the Senate Committee on Public Accounts.

On the N17.158billion unsubstantiated transfers made by NSITF, the query reads: “Management of NSITF, as shown in statements of Account No. 1750011691 with Skye Bank Plc, for the period 1st January, 2013 to 20th December, 2013, and Statements of Account No.2001754610 with First Bank Plc for the period 7th January, 2013 to 28th February, 2013, transferred amounts totalling N17,158,883,034.69  to some persons and companies from these accounts.

“However, payment vouchers relating to the transfers together with their supporting documents were not provided for audit. Consequently, the purpose(s) for the transfers could not be authenticated.

“These are in violation of Financial Rule 601 which states that ‘All payment entries in the cashbook/accounts shall be vouched for on one of the prescribed treasury forms. Vouchers shall be made out in favour of the person or persons to whom the money is actually due’.

“Under no circumstances shall a cheque be raised, or cash paid for services for which a voucher has not been raised”.

In sustaining or vacating the query, the Senate Committee, headed by Senator Mathew Urhoghide (PDP Edo South) interrogated past and present managements of NSITF to determine where the N17.158 billion was transferred to between January and December 2013.

But neither of the managements could offer satisfactory explanation on the undocumented multiple transfers. While those in charge in 2013 told the committee that documents such as vouchers were left behind by them, the present Managing Director, Dr Michael Akabogu said the present team had no such documents.

He explained: “The container the said documents were kept by past management has not only been beaten by rain over the years but even possibly been eaten up by termites.

“As directed by this committee, I told the past management officers on the need for them to help us out in answering this query with necessary documents which have not been made available for us”.

However, in his submission, the Managing Director between 2010 and 2016, Mallam Umar Abubakar said he was unaware of the query and had no explanations for it since the audit was not carried out during his tenure.

But his successor, Mr Adebayo Somefun, who was head of the agency from May 2017 to July 2020, said those in the account section should be able to trace the documents which the current  General Manager Finance alleged to have been locked up in an abandoned container within the agency’s premises in Abuja.

Irked by submissions of the past and present NSITF officials, the committee through its Chairman, Senator Urhoghide, ordered them to re-appear before the committee with all the requested evidential documents on Thursday, 22 September.

“This committee has given you people more than enough time to respond to queries slammed on NSITF in the 2018 Audit report by the office of Auditor General of the Federation.

“The queries are 50 in number, ranging from one misappropriation to the other, in billions of Naira. The one on N17.158 billion multiple transfers carried out in 2013 has not been answered at all, not to talk of N5.5 billion allegedly diverted  into a commercial bank account without approval, N2.2billion unauthorised investment without adequate records, etc.

“These are completely unacceptable and the committee will make sure that these queries are sustained if required evidential documents on monies spent or  misappropriated, are not provided”, he said.

Credit: Sunday PUNCH

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