The Federal Fire Service was given a directive by the House of Representatives Public Accounts Committee on Wednesday to return N1.48 billion to the Federation Account within a week.
This money was given to the agency as intervention funding for the COVID-19 pandemic, but it is unable to provide an accounting for it.

After the service failed to show up for the investigative hearing for the third time, the Bamidele Salam-led committee issued the directive on Wednesday.

Deputy Chairman of the committee, Jeremiah Umar, moved a motion for the refund of the amount noting that “So many other agencies have appeared before this committee, and the investigation is ongoing. I don’t see any reason why (sic) the fire service will ignore a committee like this.”

Umar added that since the service could not appear before the lawmakers to clear the controversies surrounding its COVID-19 expenditure, the right thing to do is to refund the sum of N1.48bn it collected in 2020.

This came just as the committee issued fresh invitations to some other defaulting Ministries Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government to appear and explain various queries standing against them from the office of the Auditor General of the Federation on the billions of naira allocated as COVID-19 an intervention funds.

Those invited are the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security -N50. 5 bn, Office of the Accountant General of the Federation- N33 bn, Federal Ministry of Women Affairs, through the National Centre for Women Development-N625 million, National Centre for Disease Control-N25 bn, and the Federal Ministry of Health- N10bn.

In his remark, Salam lamented that the Federal Fire Service had snubbed the Committee’s summons thrice while the other affected MDAs did the same twice each, saying that the latter group had been given one week to appear, or face sanctions.

He said, “A public officer who fails to respond to the Auditor-General’s query satisfactorily within 21 days for failure to collect government revenue due shall be surcharged and be transferred to another schedule. Where an officer fails to give a satisfactory reply to an audit query within seven days for his failure to account for government revenue, such officer shall be surcharged for the full amount involved and such officers handed over to either the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission or the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission.

“This Committee has a lot of assignments before it. The COVID-19 probe is just one; we have to move to other assignments,” he added.


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