It is exactly one year the Senate probed the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) for failing to justify its spending of N17.15 billion with required evidential documents, some of which were alleged to have been eaten up by termites.
Recall that the Senate in August 2022 knocked the present and past Management of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund that the N17.15 billion as stated in the 2018 Audit report was said to have been sent to various untraceable accounts belonging to individuals and companies from January to December 2013. The Auditor General’s office raised 50 different queries bordering on alleged misappropriation of funds by management of the agency, which was being looked into by the Senate Committee on Public Accounts.
“Management of NSITF as shown in statements of Account No. 1750011691 with Skye bank plc, for the period 1st January, 2013 to 20th December, 2013, and Statements of Account No.2001754610 with First Bank Plc for the period 7th January, 2013 to 28th February, 2013, transferred amounts totaling N17,15billion to some persons and companies from these accounts,” the query reads.
Auditor General continued to state that payment vouchers relating to the transfers together with their supporting documents were not provided for audit. Consequently, the purpose(s) for the transfers could not be authenticated.
The Misappropriation of fund by management of the agency is said to be a violation of financial rule 601 which states that “All payment entries in the cashbook/accounts shall be vouched for on one of the prescribed treasury forms. Vouchers shall be made out in Favour of the person or persons to whom the money is actually due. Under no circumstances shall a cheque be raised, or cash paid for services for which a voucher has not been raised”.
In a bid to ensure accountability, the Senate Committee headed by Senator Urhogide Mathew had interrogative sessions with the managements (past and present) to concisely give account of where the sum of N17.15 billion were transferred to in 2013.
Efforts to get satisfactory explanations on the undocumented multiple bank transactions proved abortive. Meanwhile the management in the helm of affairs in 2013 had earlier reported to the committee that they left vouchers behind while the current Director of NSITF, Dr Michael Akabogu countered that they had no such documents. He further exposed that the container the documents were kept were eaten by termites.
“The Container the said documents were kept by past management has not only been beaten by rain over the years but even possibly been eaten up by termites. As directed by this committee, I told the past management officers on the need for them to help us out in answering this query with necessary documents which have not been made available for us,” he said.
The Managing Director of NSITF from 2010 to 2016, Mallam Umar Abubakar, stated that he was unaware of the query and has no explanations for it since the audit was not carried out during his tenure.
Mr Adebayo Somefun who was head of the agency from May 2017 to July 2020, said the Account team should be able to trace the documents which the current General Manager Finance alleged to have been locked up in an abandoned container within the premises of the Trust Fund in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
Irritated by the past and present officials of the NSITF, the committee Chairman, Senator Urhoghide and members, ordered them to re-appear before the committee with all the requested documents in September 2022.
“This committee has given you people more than enough time to respond to queries slammed on NSITF in the 2018 Audit report by the office of Auditor General of the Federation.
“The queries are 50 in number ranging from one misappropriation to the other in billions of Naira. The one on N17.158billion multiple transfers carried out in 2013 has not been answered at all, not to talk of N5.5billion allegedly diverted into a commercial bank account without approval, N2.2billion unauthorized investment without adequate records.
“These are completely unacceptable and the committee will make sure that these queries are sustained if required evidential documents on monies spent or misappropriated, are not provided,” he said
Recall that in 2021, the Senate Committee on Public Accounts also probed into the alleged diversion of N61.1 billion by officials of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund led by same Senator Matthew Urhoghide.
With no further action from the Senate over the misappropriation by the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund, permutations are beginning to mount in the public that the issue may have been swept under carpet.