AGF Asks Labour Ministry To Refund N3.10bn Misappropriated Fund

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AGF asks Ministry of Labour to refund N3.10bn misappropriated fund

The office of the Auditor-General of the Federation (oAuGF), has queried the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment over N3.106 billion allegedly spent without due process and necessary approval.

The query was contained in the non-compliance with extant government regulations in government expenses for the 2020 Audit report submitted to the House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts chaired by Hon. Bamidele Salam.

In its recommendation, the oAuGF who accused the Federal Ministry of Labour of various infractions and failure to show evidence of expenses carried out within the period under review, directed the Ministry to refund the money to Government coffers.

It, however, observed that while the Ministry responded to some of the issues contained in the 32 audit queries from the Office of the Auditor General, they chose to remain silent on many others.

According to the audit report, oAuGF alleged that the Ministry failed to provide documents, files, correspondences, returns, and accounting records relating to the running of the Geneva Desk Office and how the total of N351.252 million was spent in 2019 and 2020.

The report also said that the Ministry paid its staff the sum of N226.078 million for monitoring and inspection of capital projects and updating of fixed assets register in the 6 geopolitical zones, monitoring and inspection of capital projects in 2020 and monitoring and inspection of zonal/state labour offices, job centres, capital projects, and skills acquisition centres without evidence specific timelines of visits, scope of work and reports on such inspections.

In the same vein, the Ministry failed to account for the sum of N344.027 million out of a total sum of N653,669,705 granted as cash advances in 2020, thereby alleging that multiple advances granted to staff when the previous ones had not been retired leading to a loss of government funds.

The oAuGF further alleged that after awarding a contract for upgrading skills vocational and training centres in Warri, Calabar, Lagos and Ibadan in December 2020 based on bids and quotations submitted, the ministry issued another letter two weeks later revising the schedule of requirements to enable.

It said: “the revised schedules were inflated and in some cases, especially for the capital items, the quantities to be supplied were reduced to accommodate the inflated prices. The revised schedule caused the government to lose a total of N15,502,677.07.

“Evidence of justification for the variation in prices and quantities such as applications by the contractors, appropriate approvals from the initial approving authority who approved the original contracts, reports of market survey to support the prices reviewed, and Need Assessment Report to justify that these items and the quantities were actually needed were not produced for audit.”

The AGF also alleged that the Ministry paid the sum of N261,502,802.54 to 54 contractors in 2018, N209,267,695.26 to 32 contractors in 2019 and N26,528,204.59 to 4 contractors in 2020 for the renovation of non-existent Job Centres in the geo-political zones of the country, across the country and in Akwa Ibom, Kaduna, Kano and Sokoto respectively.

The report said the Ministry failed to provide records such as the Schedule of Assets, Fixed Asset Register to support the existence of the Job Centres and supporting documents such as Job Completion Certificates, Photographs before and after the renovation, and reports, among others to support the expenditure.

Furthermore, the Ministry allegedly awarded the contract for the procurement of equipment for the specialist skill acquisition centres at Alor, Idemili North L.G.A and lfitedunu, Dunukofia L.G.A, Anambra State in 2018 and paid the contractor N46,353,415.50, adding that “the existence of the items could not be verified despite the presence of records such as Store Receipt Vouchers (SRV) and Job Completion Certificate issued in December 2019 by the Ministry.”

In line with the schedule for the year, the House Committee on Public Accounts is expected to invite the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment to give an account of its stewardship soon. (Nigerian Tribune)

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By Abia ThinkTank

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