Over $163.7m was spent to hire pre-shipment agents to monitor Nigeria’s oil and gas exports between 2009 and 2016, an investigation by the House of Representatives uncovered on Tuesday.
The money was signed out by the Federal Ministry of Finance from a pool of funds domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria.
However, lawmakers said the payments were made without appropriation by the National Assembly in breach of Sections 80/81 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
The House Committee on Public Procurement, which is conducting the investigation, also observed that the Public Procurement Act, 2007, was abused in the pre-qualification of pre-shipment firms to handle the transactions.
The committee is chaired by a member from Osun State, Oluwole Oke.
Figures quoted by the committee included $46m (2009); $17m (2010); $20m (2011); $20m (2012); $20m (2013); and $20m (2014).
The committee also reported that a number of pre-qualified firms did not tender evidence of certificate of registration with the Corporate Affairs Commission; certificate of compliance issued by the National Pension Commission; a tax clearance certificate; and a certificate from the Industrial Training Fund.
Although the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, its subsidiaries – the National Petroleum Investment Management Services – and the Department of Petroleum Resources and the CBN acknowledged the existence of the pool of funds for engaging the pre-shipment firms, they told the committee that they were not involved in the selection of the contractors or the award of the contracts.
The NNPC was also found to be in default of its own contribution to the pool of funds by over N25bn.
For example, the CBN’s representative, Godwin Dauda, said the apex bank’s involvement was at the level an existing technical committee on evaluation, which also had the other government agencies on board.
He added that at the point of awarding the contracts, the CBN was not involved, but the Ministry of Finance in compliance with the approval of the President.
But members insisted that any funds drawn from an account and spent by an agency over which the National Assembly had powers to oversight must be appropriated by the legislature.
The committee directed the CBN to provide a statement on the transaction details of the account where the funding for the services of the PIAs was drawn.
The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, who was summoned earlier on Monday by the committee to clarify the issue, failed to turn up.
She wrote the committee to say that she was flying into Abuja from Lagos and would join the session much later.
However, as of the time of rising on Tuesday, Adeosun had yet to make her appearance. This forced the committee to summon her again to appear without fail on Tuesday, next week.
Also invited to appear on Tuesday were the Minister of Power, Works/Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola; the Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Customs Service, Col. Hameed Ali (retd.); and the managing directors of firms that participated in the pre-shipment contracts.
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