Termites have allegedly eaten up some documents of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) containing expenditures worth N17.1 billion, officials of the agency have told the Senate. These documents are said to contain details of spendings by the agency in 2013. The NSITF management stated this when it appeared before the Senate Public Accounts Committee (SPAC) on Friday. Details of this expenditure and more are contained in the 2018 audit report of the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation (OAuGF).
In the report, which is now being considered by the SPAC, the OAuGF queried the agency for spending billions without appropriate supporting documents. The management could not, however, justify the spending of the money when it was confronted by the panel.
The OAuGF said the N17.158 billion represented the total amount, transferred by the NSITF from its Skye Bank and First Bank accounts, into various untraceable accounts between January and December 2013. These account, it said, belongs to individuals and companies. The report also issued 50 different queries for alleged misappropriation of funds against the agency.
“Management of NSITF, as shown in statements of account number 1750011691 with Skye Bank Plc, for the period 1st January, 2013 to 20th December, 2013, and statements of account number 2001754610 with First Bank Plc for the period January 7, 2013 to February 28, 2013, transferred amounts totalling N17,158,883,034.69 to some persons and companies from these accounts,” part of the report read.
“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.“
The OAuGF noted that these are in violation of Financial Regulation 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.”
Termites, rain take the blame
Both past and present managements of the agency were summoned by the chairman of the Senate panel, Matthew Urhoghide. When confronted with the queries from the audit report, no official could give a satisfactory explanation for the spending. The past management that headed the agency in 2013 told the panel that they left behind the relevant cash vouchers for the the transactions.
The agency’s Managing Director from 2010 to 2016, Umar Abubakar, allegedly claimed that he was aware of the query and had no explanations to render since the audit exercise was not carried out during his tenure. On his part, Adebayo Somefun, who headed the agency from May 2017 to July 2020, insisted that those in the agency’s account section should be able to trace the documents. But the current Managing Director, Michael Akabogu, said the documents were in the organisation’s possession.
He said “the container the said documents were kept by past management has not only been beaten by rains over the years but even possibly been eaten up by termites,” he told the panel.
“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.”
Another official of the agency, whose name could not be ascertained, told the panel that the container in question has been under lock and key and abandoned in an isolated area within the premises of the organisation in Abuja.
Mr Urhoghide, thereafter, mandated both members of past and present management of the NSITF to re-appear before the panel with all necessary evidence concerning the transactions unfailingly on Thursday, September 22, 2022. Inexplicable expenditures are few of many queries issued by the OAuGF every year. In the 2017 report, the OAuGF exposed how some Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) would pay salaries to dead or retired staffers, purchase vehicles and other properties without proper documentation. Although the Senate committee queries agencies indicted, no concrete penalty has been given.