Reps tackle press council over alleged N8.301m contract irregularities
• N5m insurance discrepancies
House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts has accused the Nigerian Press Council (NPC) of fraudulently spending N8.301 million for renovating its building in Abuja. At an investigative hearing, sequel to queries of the office of the Auditor-General of the Federation (AGF), the committee chairman, Hon. Kingsley Chinda, also accused the council of engaging an insurance broker for N5.118 million without due process.
The discoveries, among others, followed queries on the NPC by the Attorney-General of the Federation for the year ended December 31, 2011. The AGF had, in the complaints it forwarded to the committee, urged the parliament to investigate the N8.301 contract awarded without backing, such as letter of engagement, evidence of contract advertisement and genuineness of the contractor.
In his defence, the council’s Executive Secretary, Nnamdi Njemanze, said although he was not in office at the time, he was willing to stand by the defence of the council’s boss, who was in office at the time of the transactions. He said based on the response of the NPC at the time of responding to the query, the supporting evidences that ought to have accompanied payment vouchers for the sum were quite bulky and could not have been attached. He admitted though that the sum was used up for the renovation of its building. But the lawmakers said the excuse ‘does not hold water’ as the documents that ought to have been attached were only three.
After thorough findings, Chinda raised a five-man sub committee to be chaired by Hon. Bulus Solomon Maren (PDP, Plateau) to conduct status inquiry on the council, with a view to determining its periodic processes for contract awards, payments and deliveries. The sub-panel has one month to conclude its assignment.
On the unclear insurance policy for the council’s workers, committee members wondered why NPC could not provide clear details on the plan, such as letter of engagement for the insurance broker, evidence of tax payments and management decision on the policy. Chinda asked the officials to submit all missing documents concerning the various queries to the committee, and return with the contractors and former director of finance and accounts in one month for continuity of the hearing.