The Nigerian ministry of foreign affairs spear-headed by Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama since 2015 to date is a statutory body that was created to re-enforce foreign decision-making and implement processes vis-à-vis handling external promotion of Nigeria’s domestic vision and ideals. However, the Ministry appears to be attracting a colony of sanctions their way following the disregard of Public Service Rules and Financial Regulations.
A look into Public Service Rule 130112 shows that an officer who is required by the government to proceed to a foreign country on duty or an approved course of instruction will be eligible for a warm clothing allowance as may be specified in the extant circular. However, the allowance is not payable to an officer under the condition that the duty or course which the officer is undergoing takes place earlier than three years from the date on which the personnel last drew Warm Clothing allowance.
Findings by SecretReporters as seen in the 2018 Audit Report of the Auditor General of the Federation, reveal that senior staff of the Ministry received yearly warm clothing allowance to the tune of N89,090,000 (Eighty-Nine Million, Ninety Thousand Naira ) instead of an appropriated total sum of N49,410,000 (Forty-Nine Million, Four Hundred and Ten Thousand Naira) which ought to be paid to them once to cover up for three years before another payment can be made as stated in public service rule.
With no trepidation over their action, the Ministry, in upping their fraudulent game, brazenly penned down the payments at a fictitious rate of $720 (Seven Hundred and Twenty Dollars) to last for three years at an official exchange rate of about N305 (Three Hundred and Five Naira) to a dollar as at 2016.
A quick calculation showed that the payments which ought to have been $720×N305= N219,600 (Two Hundred and Nineteen Thousand Naira) per person, giving a total of N49,410,000 (Forty-Nine Million, Four Hundred and Ten Thousand Naira) for about 225 persons, was bloated to N89,090,000 (Eighty-Nine Million, Ninety Thousand Naira ) yearly instead of N49,410,000 (Forty-Nine Million, Four Hundred and Ten Thousand Naira) which should be once in three years thus creating an anomaly which birthed an overpayment of N39,680,000 (Thirty-Nine Million, Six Hundred and Eighty Thousand Naira), which was arguably diverted to private pockets in the Ministry.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we also learned, granted payments which were not appropriated for in the year under review, totaling N202,620,467 (Two Hundred and Two Million, Six Hundred and Twenty Thousand, Four Hundred and Sixty Seven Naira) without adequate supporting documents from travel Agencies for purported provision of flight tickets to officers of the ministry who embarked on various trips to Nigerian Missions abroad. Part of the payment made by the Ministry to the Travel Agencies we learned, were allegedly claims of Outstanding Liabilities of previous years which were presented in respect of flight tickets to the Ministry as though playing a game of trade by batter.
Copies of tickets and bookings with electronic reference numbers, documentations and data of the travelers, and evidence such as proposal and approval for the journeys claimed to have been embarked on with taxpayer’s funds on behalf of the nation were nowhere to be found. In the same vain, evidence of registration fees paid by the Travel Agencies to provide services to the Ministry, documents indicating awards of contract for the provision of such service by the Travel Agencies also were not accounted for, which points to a pinch of fraud and glaring violation of Financial Regulations on payment of services not yet rendered or goods not yet supplied.
Following no response from the management of the Ministry over the issue, the then permanent secretary of the Ministry Ambassador Gabriel Aduda was urged to recover and refund to the CRF both the overpaid Warm Clothing Allowance of N39,680,000 (Thirty-Nine Million, Six Hundred and Eighty Thousand Naira) and the expended N202,620,467 (Two Hundred and Two Million, Six Hundred and Twenty Thousand, Four Hundred and Sixty Seven Naira) since no detailed list of the beneficiaries who embarked on the Nigerian Missions trips abroad was provided.
Attempts to get the response of the Minister Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama proved abortive as he did not respond to sms sent to him from our newsroom as at press time.