NIMASA pays law firm over $5m for services not rendered, Senate frets, gives agency 48hrs for evidential documents




 

Senate Public Account Committee (SPAC) has given the Nigerian Maritime and Safety Agency (NIMASA) a 48-hour ultimatum to show document involving payment of $5 million legal fees for service allegedly not rendered.

The Panel gave the ultimatum Tuesday when representative of NIMASA, Olamide Olusanya submitted before it that the matter was in court.

But the committee rejected the submission and asked the agency to make presentation on the information at their disposal on the payment of legal fees to the law firm.

Olusanya told the lawmakers that the Agency was directed by the then Attorney General of the Federation to pay $5 million for the legal fees.

Chairman of the committee, Senator Mathew Urhoghide (PDP Edo South), however, asked him to present any letter mandating NIMASA to pay $5 million for legal fees.

He responded by saying that the letter in NIMASA’s possession to that effect, was the one from the then Senior Special Assistant to President on Administration.

Consequently, the committee chairman ordered the agency to present documents relating to the payment by Thursday this week in determining final decision to be taken on the matter.

“We need the details of the payment, go back to your archives and bring it out.

“Let us know the transaction between your office and that of the AGF before you paid the money,” he said.

Another member of the committee, Senator Abdullahi Danbaba (APC Sokoto South), said there was no basis for making that payment, adding that the money should be recovered from the law firm.

The committee had invited NIMASA up to three times for the explanation on the payment of $5 million as professional fee and details of $9.3 billion loss by the federal government, but the agency declined the invitation.

The report of the Auditor General’s sighted by our correspondent revealed that all efforts by the Auditor General of the Federation to see the details of $9.3 billion loss by the federal government for thorough scrutiny was not granted by NIMASA.

The AuGF report said the money was paid from the company’s dollar account of a top bank’s branch in the UK.

The query reads: “Audit observed that the agency engaged the service of a legal firm through a letter with reference number NIMASA/DG/KP/2014/001, dated 24th January 2014 for the intelligence-based tracking of global movement of Nigerian Hydro-Carbon and recovery of loss by the Federal Government of Nigeria in the sum of USD9.3 billion between 2013 and 2014, with a start-off cost of USD5million and 5% of all sums recovered. 

“Payment instruction with reference number NIMASA/2007/DFS/WJ/5.500/VOL.11/341 dated April 2014 showed that the firm was paid the sum of $4,523,809.52 (Four million five hundred and twenty three thousand eight hundred and nine dollar fifty two cents only) net as professional fees from …Dollar account. 

“The naira equivalent of this amount was N741,904,761.28 at an exchange rate of N164 to a dollar as of that date. 

“No evidence of recovery of either part or the entire sum of the 9.3 Billion US Dollars was presented as at the time of the Periodic Check in February 2018, despite the huge amount of money already paid to this effect. 

“It is instructive to note that details of the transaction leading to the loss of USD9.3billion to the Federal Government which only came to audit attention through the review of the letter from the agency to the legal firm so as to ascertain what could have transpired, resulting in such a huge loss were not presented for audit. 

“Ordinarily, the firm should have deducted its fees from the amounts recovered for the FGN, and not receive fees in advance in lieu of the recoveries. 

“Audit is concerned that payments was made for service not rendered and this may be a deliberate attempt to divert government funds for personal use. 

“The Director-General is required to justify the payment for service not rendered, failing which the sum of N741,904,761.28 should be recovered from the legal firm and paid into the CRF, forwarding evidence of payment to the Public Account Committees of the National Assembly and to the Office of Auditor-General for the Federation for verification. Sanctions stated in FR 3104 should apply.

“He is also required to provide details of the transaction(s) leading to the loss of 9.3 Billion US Dollars for thorough scrutiny.”

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