OrderPaperToday- The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the House of Representatives on Monday grilled the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, in respect of several queries raised from the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation (AuGF).
Other Heads of Parastatals and top officials of the Ministry were also queried on issues ranging from issuance of capital allowances to several companies without proper documentation to back them up, non-rendition of audited accounts.
The Committee also raised eyebrows over unauthorised expenditure from Service Wide Vote from 2013 to date.
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In his opening remarks, Chairman of the Committee, Oluwole Oke (PDP, Osun) explained that before the coming of the Finance Act, only Permanent Secretaries were being invited to answer such queries, adding that with the coming into effect of the 2020 Finance Act, invitations are now being extended to Ministers as well.
He also expressed displeasure with the Ministry over its refusal to respond to invitations of the Committee to answer queries from the Auditor General, but rather consistently give one excuse or the other for their failure to honour such invitations
According to him, “these people are appointees of the President through your office. By the provisions of the constitution, the President has often come to the National Assembly and yet, his appointees refused to come. If they cannot do the job they are asked to do, they should resign because there are those ready to do the job.
“We did not want to get to the level of issuing a warrant of arrest for the Heads of agencies. We felt that if we invite you and ask you to come with them, they will respect you and come. We were right, today, they are here with you.
“We want them to come and explain to the Nigerian people how they spent public resources in their disposal. Is that too much to ask? If the President will come to the parliament, why won’t his appointees?
It is for accountability and transparency, the Parliament is not after anyone, even as you are here today physically, the Director-General of the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), is still not here, he has been avoiding the Committee, he has always been seeking for an extension of time for our invitations,” he said.
The Minister, Otunba Niyi Adebayo, however, pleaded for more time for him and his team so as to fine tune their documents and come back to them for proper defence of the audit queries.
He stated that “the issues raised in the queries are just being brought to my notice at the hearing,” stressing that “I need time to sit with my officials and the Permanent Secretary to prepare a more comprehensive answer to the queries.”
The Minister assured that he would personally come back to the Committee with the Permanent Secretary for the presentation which the Committee obliged.
In the documents presented before the Committee, it revealed that the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment had issued about 4,672 certificate of capital allowance worth about N7,865,186,245,398.81 to 2,203 companies between January 2017 and December 2021.
The documents also revealed that within the same period, the Ministry recorded what they described as disallowance (finding after an audit that a business or individual taxpayer was not entitled to a deduction or other tax benefit claimed on a tax return) of N101.553 billion.