House Committee Probes Law School Over N32m Contract Payments
The House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts has grilled the Director General, Council of Legal Education, Prof. Isa Hayatu Chiroma over contract payments valued at N32million by the Nigerian Law School (NLS), without relevant tax deductions to government, contrary to existing financial regulations.
The committee, chaired by Hon. Kingsley Chinda (PDP, Rivers) had engaged the Council, which runs the NLS, based on eight queries from the Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation (AuGF) bothering among other things, on internal weaknesses in its financial control systems; alleged breach of Federal Character Law in its employment processes; non-submission of audited financial statements from 2011 to 2013.
The query also centered on undated bank mandates including non-utilisation of ledgers for transactions by the law school- raising suspicions of foul play.
Further interrogation by the committee revealed that the management prepared its own financial statements, rather than allow external auditors to do the job.
Chiroma, who appeared alongside the Council’s Director of Finance (DFA), Mr. Terzugwe Gbishe was unsure of its entire nominal roll, prompting Chinda to direct that the exact roll call be produced within 24 hours.
Although both the DG and DFA claimed they were unaware of some of the alleged infractions, the latter, however, admitted to the committee that taxes were never deducted on the contract payments in question.
The committee also established that some of the bank mandates used for transactions were not dated while official ledgers were never used.
The lawmakers said the degree of infractions raised by the AuGF appeared to be incurable and tended to suggest that there had been some level of pilfering which could only be measured by putting the institution on status enquiry.
The Committee said there had been a serial breach of financial guidelines by the Council.
In ruling on the queries, however, Chinda said it was clear that the allegation on undated bank mandate and non utilisation of ledgers were true adding that the council had failed to put forward any tangible defence.
The law school also used un-numbered audit stamp in its transactions.
The chairman said the queries by the AuGF were substantial and “hold water”.
He, therefore, placed the Council on Status
Enquiry, setting up a sub-committee to probe its activities from 2011 to 2018 and ascertain the quantum of leakages in the institution.
The committee further mandated the Council to produce mandates and bank statements to verify some of its claims.