By Babajide Okeowo
The Senate Committee on Public Accounts has cleared the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) of allegations of financial impropriety brought against it by the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation (OAuGF).
This is contained in a statement issued by Mr Ibeh Chidi, Head, Public Communications, BPE on Friday in Abuja.
According to Chide, the committee cleared the bureau of the allegations when its Director-General, Mr Alex Okoh, appeared before it.
He said that the committee, chaired by Sen. Mathew Urhohide described the allegations as spurious, adding that the OAuGF did not reconcile its records before going public to accuse BPE of financial misdemeanor.
He recalled that the OAuGF had accused the bureau of some financial infractions, especially the non-remittance of revenue on ports concessions in the sum of 679.4 million dollars.
“On the ports concession payments, Okoh informed the committee that the bureau was only a party to the concession as all revenues generated from the exercise were paid directly to the Landlord-Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).
“He stated that the bureau was never part of revenue collection during and after the concession, adding that the OAuGF arrived at the figures by merely looking at the contract documents and assuming the revenues were paid to the bureau.”
He said that Okoh regretted that the allegations against the bureau had put a smudge on its reputation and integrity and demanded a retraction and apology from the OAuGF.
“After listening to the presentation by the DG, BPE and the inadequate response from the OAuGF, the committee exonerated the bureau from all the allegations.”
The committee, however, advised the OAuGF to always meet with relevant agencies for Post Audit Reconciliation before going public.
It also berated the OAuGF for not diligently carrying out its duties.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the committee began investigating the BPE for allegedly failing to remit 679.4 million dollars realised from the concession of various ports to 23 companies by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) over a period of 10 years.
The investigation was based on the OAuGF’s Annual Report on Non-Compliance/Internal Control Weaknesses Issues in Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the Federal Government for the year ended Dec. 31, 2019.
An investigation was launched by the office against the BPE where it was discovered that 23 companies were granted concession at various ports under the NPA for 10 years and above.
Their annual rent of 679.4 million dollars was payable to the NPA as of December 31 of every year.
However, the office said an audit showed that there was no evidence that the said amount was collected at the appropriate time and remitted to the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) of the government.