Reps probe NPA $800m debt to port operators


House of RepsThe House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts has commenced an investigation into the alleged indebtedness of the Nigerian Ports Authority to port operators amounting to over $800m.

Chairman of the committee, Oluwole Oke, said since the NPA needed to be present alongside the port operators, the committee would take the investigation closer to both parties in Lagos.

Oke made this known at the investigative hearing of the committee in Abuja on Friday.

“The parliament will move the hearing to Lagos where all parties will meet with us at Marriott Hotel in Ikeja between December 8 and 9. We hope to resolve this issue once and for all. Eight hundred million dollars is not small amount of money.”

Meanwhile, the committee is also probing into why the Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate’s failure to employ workers in 2018 despite that the National Assembly appropriated allocation for the purpose.

The Office of the Auditor General of the Federation had, in an audit query being verified by the committee, said N1.7bn was approved for PTAD as personnel cost in 2018 but it utilised only N1.4bn and returned the balance of about N310m to the Consolidated Revenue Fund.

The committee, at its investigative hearing on Friday, however, observed that despite that workers were not recruited, PTAD got the same amount of N1.7bn as personnel cost in 2019.

The query partly read, “In 2020, the agency’s allocation for personnel cost went up to N1.8bn, reducing to N1.6bn in 2021, going up again to N1.9bn in 2022, even when the workers have not been employed.”

While Oke pointed out that something was wrong, a senior officer of PTAD, Abdullah Abubakar, who represented the Executive Secretary, Dr. Chioma Ejikeme, said N1.7bn was budgeted for personnel cost in 2018 because the agency initially planned to employ new hands, adding that the balance of N310m was returned to the treasury.

Abubakar said, “Our personnel are handled by IPPIS. The balance of the money budgeted was returned to the CRF because we did not employ the staff that we needed to employ. Till date, we are still in need of those workers, but we are yet to get a waiver from the Head of Service to employ.”

According to him, the increase in expenditure, despite not employing new members of staff, was as a result of promotion of existing workers and the need to adjust their salaries in accordance with their new positions.

But according to Oke, “The Head of Service and the Federal Character Commission must have carried out a needed assessment on your agency leading to your request for funds to employ. We (parliament) gave you that money but you failed to use it. The complaint of most agencies has been lack of funds. But here (in PTAD), you got the funds you requested for and, yet, failed to use it. You have lied to the parliament through the President and has denied other agencies the use of that money.

“So, we need to see the assessment that was carried out on your agency that led to the parliament giving you this money. By not using this money for what it was meant for, you have committed an offence against the Appropriation Act. But we will give you a right of fair hearing to explain to us the reason(s) for your action.”

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