Minister of Foreign Affairs [Photo credit: Bulet International (Nig.) Ltd]
The Nigerian embassy in Israel mismanaged funds totalling $493, 111 and another N331 million (N331,461,392) of the total revenue generated and received between 2013 and 2015, an audit report reviewed by PREMIUM TIMES reveals.
The annual report of the Auditor-General of the Federation for the year ended 2015, said the embassy could not account for the funds in its records submitted for review.
A total sum of $858,704 (3,091,337 Shekels) was reportedly generated as revenue in respect of visas and administrative charges in the period under review, but only $365, 593 was remitted into the designated account, the report, the latest from the Auditor General revealed.
During the same period, the embassy was granted Authority to Incur Expenditure, AIE, in the sum of N517,247,500.
However, only N185, 786, 171 was accounted for by the embassy.
The report noted that this development has left the embassy with a deficit of $493, 111 and N331, 461, 392 which the permanent secretary 'was unable to explain.'
DEFICITS AND IRREGULARITIES
The report gave further details of its findings.
Between 2013 and 2015, $187, 554 (675,196 shekels) was transferred from revenue to overhead accounts as revealed in the revenue cashbooks.
The amount was said to have been borrowed from the Internally Generated Revenue, IGR, account for the period but was never paid back.
The audit revealed further that out of 1,860,544 Shekels generated by the embassy, 760,466 Shekels was remitted to J.P. Morgan between 2014 and 2015.
This created a deficit of about $305,577 (1, 100, 078 Shekels).
J.P Morgan is a U.S. multinational banking and financial services holding company headquartered in New York City.
It was observed in the audit report that the embassy fell short in keeping account of revenue, disbursement of funds and record keeping thereby aiding corruption within its ranks.
The following specific irregularities were also reported: ''Treasury Book 6A and Treasury Book 6 revenue booklets were not kept, and consequently not made available; revenue Collector's Registers with details of TR 6A and relevant amount were not maintained; Revenue Cashbooks were not updated with relevant entries throughout 2014 and 2015. An ordinary register maintained by the Consular Section had no details of TR 6A and the amount generated for each booklet. Monthly figures were just recorded without details.
''All these irregularities violated Financial Regulations 208, 209, 210 and 236 and question the accountability and transparency of the revenue collection.''
MISMANAGEMENT OF FUNDS
Between 2013 and 2015, about 64 per cent of N517,247,500 total grants remitted as AIE by the Nigerian government to the embassy was unaccounted for.
According to records, the sum was for capital, personnel and overhead costs and was reportedly remitted into one account for the period as follows: 2013: A/C No.218648/91 located at Gordon Street and 2014/2015: A/C 223701/15 located at Allenby Street.
However, only N185, 786, 171 was accounted for in the verification of AIEs extracted from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs while the remaining N331,461,392 was neither found in the account of the embassy nor recorded. No explanation was also offered.
A further breakdown shows that N80 million (N80,028,810) was unaccounted for in 2013; N137 million (N137,491,054) in 2014 and N113 million (N113, 941,465) in 2015.
''This is a violation of Financial Regulation 701 which requires separate Bank accounts to be maintained for Capital and Overhead to enable transparent rendition of expenditure returns in accordance with budgetary provisions,'' the audit report noted.
''The expenditure returns rendered by the Embassy cannot be admissible as a true reflection of transactions because of the lumping of expenditure remittances (Personnel, Overhead and Capital) into one bank account.''
DIRECT PAYMENT TO AMBASSADOR
Between 2013 and 2015, $134,400 was reportedly paid directly to an ambassador during his tenure for domestic servants.
This direct payment of domestic staff salary to the ambassador is contrary to the terms of engagement as spelt out in official appointment letters which say that domestic staff salary be included on the Mission's payroll, the auditor general said.
The report noted that the sum paid directly to the ambassador was "not a legitimate charge on Public Funds and has to be refunded."
NON-COMPLIANCE WITH TSA
In a violation of the law, the embassy also failed to comply with the directive of remitting due sums into the Treasury Single Account, TSA, of the Federal Government.
This action, the report noted, negates a federal government circular: No. HC SF/428/S.1/.20 dated August 7th, 2015 which gave a specific directive to all Ministries, Department and Agencies, MDAs that collect revenue to close their respective revenue accounts and pay the proceeds into the Treasury Single Account (TSA) by 15th August 2015.
'PILGRIMS ACCOMPANYING SCAM'
The report also noted that over the years, the embassy had reportedly developed a means of collecting money illegally from the Nigerian government in what it called Estacode allowance for accompanying pilgrims to religious sites.
During the audit examination of payment vouchers, it was observed that the total sum of $158,928.00 was paid as Estacode allowance to home-based staff to accompany Christian pilgrims from Nigeria to various religious sites.
It was revealed while going through supporting documents attached to the payment vouchers that these pilgrims were usually accompanied by officials from the Nigeria Pilgrims Commission, hence there was no need for embassy staff to escort them.
Following these variations, the Permanent Secretary of the embassy was requested to explain these irregularities in revenue collection, account for the sums in deficit and ensure a surcharge on officers involved.
Efforts made by PREMIUM TIMES to reach the embassy for comments on the report, or get the details of the ambassador in 2013, David Obasa, were unsuccessful as messages sent to the embassy's official e-mail address were not replied, days after they were sent.