Home Business AuGF queries petroleum ministry for contract-splitting, procurement violation 

AuGF queries petroleum ministry for contract-splitting, procurement violation 

by Business News Report

The Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation has queried the Ministry of Petroleum Resources for contract splitting, violation of procurement process and other malfeasance to the tune of over N1.24 billion.  The AuGF, in its 2015 Audit Report said the Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Petroleum Resources violated certain aspects of the Public Procurement Act in the award of certain contracts and payments made in 2015.

The OAuGF said that an expenditure entry of N718.912 million was made in the Cashbook of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources as payments to 11 corporate bodies for different services rendered, while it accused the ministry of concealment, declaring that it failed to provide supporting documents regarding this payment for audit review despite repeated request.

It said this was contrary to Financial Regulation 110 which states that the Auditor–General or his representative shall at all reasonable times have free access to books of accounts, files, safes, security documents and other records and information relating to the accounts of all Federal Ministries/Extra-Ministerial offices and other arms of government or unit.

It said that expenditure of this magnitude without documents explaining and supporting the genuineness of these payments cannot be accepted as legitimate charges against public funds.

It said, “The Permanent Secretary has been requested to produce all documents relating to this payments, otherwise, recover and pay to treasury, the sum of N718.912 million being expenditure un-accounted for and furnish recovery particulars for verification.” Giving further breakdown of the malfeasance, the report stated that the Ministry, in the award of contract for the supply of Schneider biros worth N14.574 million, split the contract into smaller packages of less than N5 million each and awarded to four different companies in order to circumvent the Permanent Secretary’s approval threshold of N5 million.

It also stated that the contract for the printing of the Ministry’s Letter-Headed paper worth N46.645 million was also split and awarded to 11 different contractors, while the contract for supply of toners worth N56.418, million was split and awarded to 17 (Seventeen) different contractors.

According to the AuGF, the action of the Permanent Secretary contravened Section 20(e) of the Public Procurement Act in respect of tender splitting, while it disclosed that the Permanent Secretary had been requested to explain this contravention of the Public Procurement Act, 2007.

The AuGF further stated that the consultancy contract awarded to a company for local training/workshop for officers on Grade Level 07 to 10 in 2014, at a total cost of N11.214 million, was split into three and awarded the same day, November 24, 2014.

The OAuGF said, “The Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) in its approved revised threshold for service wide application provides that Accounting Officers of Ministries can only exercise authority for consultancy services less than N5 million.  “The splitting of the consultancy contract into three (3) by the Permanent Secretary contravened Section 20(e) of the Procurement Act, 2007, in respect of tender splitting.  The Permanent Secretary has been requested to explain the recourse to contract splitting and the consequent flagrant disregard to the provisions of the BPP Guidelines on threshold limits on contract awards.”

In addition, the AuGF stated that while examining the books of Capital Expenditure of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, it observed that the Ministry spent the sum of N23.642 million from the Capital Project funds for procurement of Sallah/Christmas welfare package to staff of the ministry.

According to the report, this was an abuse of the 2014 Approved Estimates of the Ministry as there was no appropriation or provision for these in the Ministry’s Budget. This, it said was contrary to extant regulation which states that ‘’Expenditure shall strictly be classified in accordance with the Estimate, and vote must be applied only to the purpose for which the money is provided.’

“The Permanent Secretary has been requested to recover and pay to treasury, the sum of N23.642, million, being inappropriate expenditure, furnishing recovery particulars for verification,” the OAuGF ordered.

The report also indicted the petroleum ministry of paying N32.783 million meant for IPPIS training and other programmes through the bank accounts of staff of the Finance and Accounts Department instead of paying the approved amounts directly into the bank accounts of the bona-fide beneficiaries, as required by the E-payment policy. The OAuGF ordered the Permanent Secretary to stop forthwith, the circumvention of the e-payment policy as well as provide documentary evidence of receipt by the bona-fide beneficiaries of the total sum of N32.783 million, failing which, the full amount should be recovered.

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