The Senate has queried the Ministry of Petroleum Resources for awarding an N145 million media campaign contract on the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) to a management staff.
The query is contained in a 2015 report of the Auditor-General of the Federation, which is being considered by the Senate Committee on Public Account.
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The committee, chaired by Senator Matthew Urhoghide, is probing the expenses of federal government’s agencies.
The query was raised when the representative of the ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Godwin Akubo, appeared before the committee to defend the allegation.
It reads: “The total sum of N145 million was approved by the Ministerial Tenders Board (MTB) and paid to a management staff for electronic billboard advertisement, television jingles and newspaper publications, for the campaign awareness of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), instead of contract award to competent and technically experienced companies through open competitive bidding to ensure transparency and accountability.
“Invoices and receipts of payment from the purported companies and agencies, whose services were engaged in the implementation of the programme, were not tendered for audit.”
Responding to the query, Akubo said the management staff, a Director of Press, had a wealth of experience with media coverage.
“His key role or involvement bridged the gap between the ministry and media houses based on public relations.
“He helped to fast track and reach out to the target audience in good time, therefore, his service was a blessing to the ministry.”
However, Akubo was unable to tender invoices and receipt of the N145 million media campaign contract, a development which angered the panel members.
Senator Urhoghide sustained the query and demanded the refund of the N145 million to the federation account.
Meanwhile, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari and Mr Timipre Sylva, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, to urgently probe how N116m was spent by the ministry to purchase biros, letterhead and toners in 2015.
The organisation also asked the president and the minister to disclose the amount spent on the same items between 2016 and 2020.
“If there is evidence of misuse of public funds, refer the matter to the appropriate anti-corruption agencies for prosecution,” SERAP demanded.
In the letter dated December 12, 2020, and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said it gave the minister 14 days within which to make the disclosure.