N1.2bn fraud uncovered at FUTO, UNIABUJA

* Vice-Chancellors have questions to answer ─Report

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In continuation of its close scrutiny of the financials of the Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to ensure fiscal discipline and responsibility, the Federal Government’s recent audit report has revealed financial irregularities of more than N1.2billion in the 2015, 2016 and 2017 finances of the Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO), Imo State capital, and the University of Abuja (UNIABUJA), Abuja, FCT.

The Punch reports that the 2017 report from the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation (AGF), titled: “Auditor General’s Annual Report on the Accounts of the Federation of Nigeria 2017”, showed that FUTO had more than N611million financial irresponsibility in its expenses between 2016 and 2017, while UNIABUJA had over N560million for 2015.

The report noted that the vice-chancellors of the universities during the years under review must be made to answer for the money unaccounted for.

For FUTO, the report highlighted about 10 areas where there were financial infractions between 2016 and 2017.

These ranged from “payments without raising payment vouchers put at N43, 543,129; payment of unapproved allowances put at N244, 325,021, and payment to contractor for jobs not done at N34, 252,304.”

The report partly read, “During the periodic checks conducted at the Federal University of Technology, Owerri, for the period January 1, 2016, to December 31, 2017, the following were observed; payments without raising payment vouchers – N43,543,129.34.

“Payments totalling N43, 543,129.34 were made without raising payment vouchers, in violation of Financial Regulation 601 which provides that payment vouchers must be raised before any payment is made.

“Response from the university on the above issue failed to address the issue.”

In the report, the recommendation is that “the vice-chancellor has been requested to account for the sum of N43, 543,129.

“Also, sanctions stated in financial regulation 3106 should be imposed on the vice-chancellor.

The report further stated that the “payment of unapproved allowances put at N244, 325,021.26.

“It was observed from sampled payment vouchers that a total of N244,325,021.26 was paid to staff as allowances for recharge cards, council incentives, security shift, contract addition allowances, etc., from personnel cost between 2016 and 2017.

“Documents conveying approval for such payments from the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission could not be made available during the periodic check,” it stated.

For the University of Abuja, the report highlighted that the institution had unaccounted payments estimated at N17, 924,585, and payment of unapproved allowances at N84, 748,382 among other infractions.

The report further reveals that, “during the periodic checks of the University of Abuja, for the 2015 financial year, the following observations were made: One, unaccounted payments – N17, 924, 585; 27 payment vouchers totalling N17,924,585 were paid to a staff of the university for printing services and jobs.

“The amount should have been made direct to the University Bookshop or University Printing Press rather than personal account of the officer.

“However, there was no record of utilisation of the various amounts collected by the payee in order to ascertain transparency, probity and accountability of the transactions. Our recommendation is that the vice-chancellor is required to account for the sum of 17,924,585 and forward evidence to me for confirmation.

“Also, payment of unapproved allowances is put at N84, 748,382. Furthermore, there is diversion of funds through fictitious contract which is put at N23, 921, 250,” it added.

Meanwhile, Paradigm Leadership Support Initiative (PLSI), a civil society organisation,  reacting to the report, has asked the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to investigate the universities and recover allegedly misused funds.

Olusegun Elemo, Executive Director of PLSI, in a statement said, “anti-corruption agencies, particularly the ICPC and the EFCC, should investigate the transactions, recover the money, and return it to the federal treasury.

“The university authorities should also ensure strict compliance with relevant fiscal provisions and procurement laws in the implementation of new contracts.”

In her comment, Mrs. Uche Nwaelue, FUTO’s Spokeswoman, has asked The Punch correspondent to forward a copy of the report to her, and promised to get back on it.

The source stated that Dr. Habib Yakoob, Spokesman for UNIABUJA, could not be reached for comment as of time of filing the report.

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