$20bn oil money: Forensic audit is diversionary – Senator Adetunmbi

Semiu Salami
Semiu Salami

The Vice Chairman, Senate Committee on Interior, Senator Olubunmi Adetunmbi, has, justified the decision of the Chairman, Senate Committee on Finance, Senator Ahmed Makarfi,  to take over the forensic audit of the accounts of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation and others over the allegation of missing oil funds.

Adetunmbi, an All Progressives Congress member from Ekiti state said the probe should be better carried out by the National Assembly as against the Ministry of Finance which is yet to extricate itself from the allegations of fraud currently rocking the nation’s petroleum sector.

He said the ceding of the responsibility of carrying out the forensic audit to the finance ministry would not augur well for issues of accountability, transparency and credibility which the furore has continued to generate in the past few weeks.

The lawmaker said past actions of the finance ministry had created doubts in the minds of the public on whether the ministry could be trusted to handle the audit and whether it would be an unbiased arbiter in a controversy that has already cast severe doubt on its credibility.

“Now we are talking of another forensic audit. No one should be hoodwinked about this attempt to feed the thirst of the public for breaking news of scandals which dies naturally a few weeks after their unveiling.

“Given the past experience, there seem to be an unholy alliance between the MoF and NNPC to conceal embarrassing discrepancies in the revenue of the federation. I don’t think the public trusts the MoF to carry out this forensic audit.

“This audit should emanate directly from the Senate. Sections 88 and 89 of the Constitution grants the power of investigation to the Parliament and it does not need to cede this responsibility to the Minister of Finance who incidentally in this scenario is also a party to be investigated in the case of the unremitted funds.”

“Sadly, going by previous experiences, the Coordinating Minister of Finance is known for subtly diverting public attention whenever issues of accountability into public revenue and expenditure come under public scrutiny.

“What happened to the KPMG independent audit report of December 2011 that considered the monumental fraud and corruption at NNPC on petrol subsidy scam that led to the ‘Occupy Nigeria’ protest of January 2012?

“I can recall that the Senate Committee that investigated the oil subsidy scandal gave a seven-day ultimatum to produce the KPMG report on oil at a subsequent public hearing.

“I cannot recall if the Coordinating Minister of the Economy has obliged the Senate of this report or if the report was ever officially released or published by the Ministry of Finance,” he said.

The senator said the nation was once more being faced with the same minister who refused to share this information with the public making another promise of another “forensic audit” of the NNPC when the last audit is yet to be officially made public or acted upon.

“Otherwise if it were, should we be at this point again? Nigerians are not interested in an audit circus that only feeds their desire to be informed only for the resultant report to be kept under wraps and the people kept on a roller coaster.

“MoF only strident calls for forensic audit when the agitation for transparency by the public can no longer be ignored.”

Adetunmbi noted that Nigerians should not be hoodwinked into forgetting the fundamental issues at stake which is the illegal expenditure carried out by a government institutional using public funds without presidential approval or appropriation by Parliament.

“The NNPC should not confuse issues of the need for kerosene subsidy or otherwise with the process of accounting for revenue and officially appropriating funds for same.

“Section 162 (1) has been breached. NNPC cannot override the constitution. The main issue here is that NNPC has no powers under our laws for it to deduct at source and expend without Presidential approval or National Assembly appropriation,” senator Adetunmbi said.

He added that nothing could be more anti-masses than dipping hands into monies that ought to come directly first into the Federation Account. “It is a criminal infraction for the NNPC to continue to run as a parallel government and spendgovernment revenue as it wishes.”

He said that “It is rather disheartening for the ministers of finance and petroleum to be passing buck to each other on the simple question of how to pay for kerosene subsidy when it is not even appropriated for in 2014 budget.

“NNPC has continued to pay for kerosene subsidy at source without appropriation.  It is the statutory function of the Ministry of Finance to make payments on behalf of the FG therefore the minster cannot claim ignorance of these payments.

“Also the ministry cannot investigate itself or be a judge in its own case. If kerosene subsidy must continue, let the Federal Government say so and budget for it.

“If the Coordinating Minister of the Economy cannot respond appropriately to this germane issues, then what is she coordinating?

“How does a World Bank trained minister who superintends over annual budget explain that expenses in the sum of $10.8bn (Mof figure) is spent by an agency of government outside the budget prepared by the same CME?” Adetunmbi said.

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