OrderPaperToday – The Ministry of Finance and the House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts (PAC) on Tuesday sharply disagreed over the process of payment of the sum of N2.8billion by the federal government to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in the 2017 financial year.

The disagreement occurred at a meeting held between the Public Accounts Committee chaired by Mr. Oluwole Oke (PDP, OSUN) and the Ministry of Finance in respect of the ongoing investigation on the audit queries by Office of the Auditor-General of Federation (OAuGF) on Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs).

While defending the queries against the Ministry, the Permanent Secretary, Mr. Mallam Aliyu Ahmed, said the payment was made by the Minister following a memo by OPEC requesting the said amount.

Ahmed disclosed that the amount was released from the office of the Accountant General of the Federation as payment of Nigeria’s contribution to the OPEC fund for international development in 2017.

Members of the Committee disagreed and wondered that the Minister could release such amount of money without recourse to the President or the National Assembly for proper appropriation

In his defense, Ahmed insisted that payments to international organizations were not guided by the Procurement Act.

He said that it was a routine payment and that there were hundreds of international organizations, so if they had to resort to the President for every approval, it would be unmanageable and cost more and this had been the practice over time.

Although the lawmakers vehemently opposed the position of Ahmed saying that it had been done over time does not make it right and such payments must be approved by the President.

Chairman of the Committee, Wole Oke, said approval from the presidency for such sum would be apt.

“Probably an approval from Mr. President from FEC for these large sums of money would have been apt. Your submissions are apt. We know where the money is coming from and where it went to. What we are saying and for the Auditor-General to have raised it, there must have been an issue,” he said.

He ruled that in the future, the Ministry should obtain a memo and presidential approval before taking such amounts.

According to him, “For a minister to dip her hands into the treasury for whatever purposes and take N2.8 billion is not friendly”.

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