Financial mismanagement has sadly, become a recurring phenomenon in Nigeria. Ministers siphon money at will, political appointees embezzle public funds entrusted in their care with so much impunity, most federal and state contractors divert resources and inflates figures at will and do not get to be probed or investigated because they have payed their dues to the powers that be.
This troubling situation created the foundation of corruption which has almost become a norm, As such one who decides to stand out and fight against these corrupt practices is termed a weakling, not smart enough and are either being framed for one offence or the other, dismissed from office and in some very extreme cases executed, as a way to silence them once and for all especially when they have records and evidence to implicate those who perpetuate acts of corruption.
Just recently news sources disclosed that the office of the auditor general of the federation (AuGF) says officials of the federal ministry of petroleum resources spent N14.5 million on the purchase of Schneider pen, N46m to print the ministry’s letterheads and N56m on toner for its photocopy machines.
This revelation was made public on Thursday 10 december 2020 and was also included in the 2015 audit report submitted by the AuGF to the senate public accounts committee.
Shockingly and scandalously, the report stated that a total of N116 million was spent to procure stationery in one year.
The questionable nature of the report and it’s luxury expenditures led to an investigative enquiry to ascertain its authenticity. The scrutiny is currently been carried out by the senate committee, led by Mathew Urhoghide, the senator representing Edo south.
“The contract for the supply of Schneider biros worth N14.5m was split into smaller packages of less than N5m each and was awarded to four different companies in order to circumvent the permanent secretary’s approval threshold of N5m,” the AuGF wrote in a query.
“Similarly, the contract for the printing of the ministry’s letterhead worth N46m was also split and awarded to 11 different contractors.
“Also, the contract for the supply of toners worth N56m was split and awarded to seven different contractors. The permanent secretary has been requested to explain this contravention of the Public Procurement Act 2007.”
Meanwhile, a representative of the petroleum ministry, Godwin Akubo, responding the query, said: “The action of the ministry was a quick response to the needs of the various departments in the ministry of petroleum resources.”
“These awards followed normal rules and procedures,” he insisted.
“The contracts were not split. They were awarded to the various contractors at different times when items were needed.
“The sum of N46.6m used for printing of letterhead followed due process and the large sum of money is explained by the volume of the produced for most of the departments.”
The explanations give by the permanent secretary of the ministry was not enough to convince the senate committee chairman who was visibly livid and discontent about the whole process. The query was therefore sustained.
He concluded by asking the committee secretariat to give proper accounting and documentation of all the money and also requested for a refund from the all the officers who were involved in the ministry.
Nigerians were happy to see the follow- up to this extravagance of the petroleum ministry and hope it will serve as a deterrent to other ministries who seem to think that public funds could easily be diverted under the auspices of spending it for national and common good especially when there is so much talk of the country being in debts and we’ll as the current threat of recession.
Gift Joseph Okpakorese