COVID-19  probe:  Reps Committee expresses displeasure over submission of worthless documents by ministry

The Public Accounts Committee of the House of Representatives on Monday expressed dismay over  the insufficient and inadequate documents submitted before it by the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investments over the alleged mismanagement of N75 billion allocated to it as COVID-19 Intervention funds by the Federal Government.

 The Committee is chaired by Bamidele Salam (Osun-PDP).

The committee is currently probing Ministries Departments and Agencies, MDAs, of the Federal Government over the alleged  massive mismanagement of COVID-19 intervention funds. At the resumed hearing of the exercise in Abuja, he said that the submission of the Ministry on the expenditure of the N75 billions ” is a worthless piece of document which doesn’t say anything.”

  The Committee at its last sitting had ordered the Ministry, its immediate past and the incumbent Permanent Secretaries to jointly refund the sum of  N75 billion allocated to it as COVID-19 intervention funds after the refusal of officials of the ministry to appear before the Committee to defend the expendables 

 However, when the incumbent Permanent Secretary  of the Ministry, Ambassador Nura Abba Rimi  appeared before the Committee on Monday, he said that he only assumed office at the Ministry  on the 21st of January this year.

 He apologized for the failure of the ministry to appear before the Constitutional Committee three consecutive times to defend the expendables as requested.

 At this point, a member of the Committee Hon Bassey Akiba  raised a point of order for entertaining the Ministry again after a decision had been taken over its matter and which has not been set aside.

 According to him, “Mr. Chairman, Honourable Colleagues, let us even look at the issue of whether or not we should listen to the ministry and that for me is very important, I am the mover of the motion  that a refund should be made because for me it was a clear case of disregard for the Committee and National Assembly; that is why I moved that motion. 

 “Having given that ministry this number of times to appear and they failed to appear, it shows clearly that the ministry does not have anything to say about the expenditure of the money and that is why I moved that motion and it was duly seconded and the motion was passed by the committee and I am sure that if not because of the break that we had, that the house would’ve considered the position of the committee, having come here this morning and I saw Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment on our schedule, I think we are looking at other things outside COVID, maybe we are looking at issues concerning Auditor  General’s queries on that ministry for a certain year, when I looked at the schedule this morning, it was still COVID, I don’t think it is proper, going by our own practice that if the house has ruled on a matter that we need to bring it back again, maybe because of the magnanimity of the Chairman that he granted based on some reasons and you come, again there is a background here that the chamber has saying before you appear do a writing submission which again was abnormal for a matter that had been ruled over by the Committee, do a writing submission the chairman was just trying to be kind,  let’s still give you fair hearing even when we have ruled,

 ” Honestly it should be something we need to discuss and consider whether or not we should receive any document or anything. 

 In response, the Chairman Of the Committee said, “Honorable Colleagues why I even allowed them to come at all was because at times in this our assignment too, we have to look for a way of balancing interest, when the permanent secretary reached out to me and he told me he was barely a week in office, that was about two weeks ago and that he was hearing the matter for the very first time, even though I know by practice, he inherits all liabilities and assets and I thought on humans consideration that we should give him the benefit of the doubt, to come here and if he is able to convince the committee to listen to him, we listen to him, but like chairman of rules said by our rule when a motion has been taken and carried, there has to be a motion for resend of such a resolution, it is only when the motion is carried that we can review the decision, 

 “Honorable member we need to be guided, I honestly do not think we should even take any motion to reseen that decision yet until they have properly submitted their records and defend because if they defend, we may still find a need to stand by that resolution, so the only thing that I will just plead with the members if we agree, is for us to allow them to present their complete document, this does not satisfy the template you were given. It is a waterless piece of document, it doesn’t say anything.”

 Consequently, the lawmakers unanimously resolved to allow the Ministry to resubmit a complete document within seven working days and ordered that the Managing Director of Bank of Industry should be available in person on the next hearing date for the defence of the query.

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