How NOTAP diverted IGR to staff welfare account, used public funds for private functions

THE National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP) under its Director-General, Dr. DanAzumi Mohammed Ibrahim, allegedly diverted a percentage of its internally generated revenue (IGR) to staff welfare account, while using public funds for private functions.

NOTAP is a government parastatal under the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology. The agency was created to harness nation’s ideas, inventions, innovations and creative works to achieve technological advancement and global competitiveness.

Former President Muhammadu Buhari appointed Dr Ibrahim as the agency’s DG on October 15, 2015. He remained the DG of the agency until October 23, 2023, when he handed over to Director, Technology Innovation and commercialization, Dr Idoreyin Imiyoho.

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According to Auditor-General’s 2020 Annual Reports, the parastatal headed by the DG, Dr Ibrahim, presented a proposal to its council at a meeting held between September 25 and 28, 2018, to approve “that certain percentage from the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of the Office be channeled towards improvement and motivation of staff.”

The report noted that the council “approved the proposal to allocate 10% of the IGR to service Staff Welfare Policy covering financial benefits death, marriage, child birth, retirement etc.”

The auditor-general said the council relied on Section 12(2) (b) of the NOTAP Act cap 268 of 1999, which states that “the National Office shall establish and maintain a fund, the proceeds of which shall be applied for reimbursing members of the Council of any committee set up by the Council for such expenses as may be authorised by the Council and in accordance with the rates approved on that behalf by the President.”

The auditor-general said the approval took effect on January1, 2019, leading to the opening of a sub account with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for Staff Welfare Scheme.

The report said N85.252 million, being 10 percent of IGR in 2019 and 2020, was transferred to the welfare account, noting that N17.526 million was taken from the account to fund wedding, childbirth, burial and retirement benefits in 2020, which was a violation of the law as the parastatal was not allowed to tamper with its IGR.

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“The above anomalies could be attributed to weaknesses in the internal control system at the National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion, Abuja,” the report said.

According to the auditor-general, NOTAP’s action had led to loss of government funds and diversion of public funds.

The auditor-general recommended that the DG be requested to recover and remit N85.252 million transferred to staff welfare sub-account from the IGR to the treasury.

NOTAP should also be required to forward evidence of remittance to Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly, the report recommended.

If these did not happen, the nation’s chief auditor recommended that sanctions relating to failure to collect and account for government revenue and gross misconduct specified in paragraphs 3112 and 3129 of the Financial Regulations 2009 be applied.

Public funds for private functions

The report further indicted NOTAP for making payments totalling N2.151 million for sponsorship of wedding anniversaries of non-staff of NOTAP, noting that there no evidence to justify the payments.

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The report further said that the parastatal violated Paragraph 415 of the Financial Regulations 2009, which says that “the Federal Government requires all officers responsible for expenditure to exercise due economy,” and that “money must not be spent merely because it has been voted.”

The auditor-general recommended that the DG provide justification for the sponsorship of wedding anniversaries of non-staff of the parastatal from public funds.

The DG must also be asked to recover the N2.151 million and remit same to the treasury.

The DG should also be required to forward evidence of remittance to Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly, the report recommended.

If these did not happen, the nation’s chief auditor recommended that sanctions relating to irregular payment and failure to spend public funds effectively as prescribed in paragraphs 3106 and 3115 of the Financial Regulations 2009 be applied.

Payments without approval

The report further noted that NOTAP spent a total of N9.131 million for lunch and transport of staff while carrying out their routine duties. The payment was done without the approval of the National Salaries Incomes And Wages Commission.

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NOTAP violated Paragraph 2 of Establishment Rules in Circular Re No OHCSF/SPSO/11214/1/39 dated February 6, 2017, which states that “as part of cost-saving measures introduced by the Federal Government to reduce the cost of governance and make funds available for priority projects, the government has approved standard rates to be expended on meals and refreshments for meetings, seminars, and conferences by Government establishments/ offices henceforth.”

The auditor-general recommended that the money be recovered and remitted to the treasury, while evidence of remittance must be forwarded to Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly.

Unretired imprests

Auditor-general further indicted NOTAP for not retiring 38 imprests and cash advances amounting to N9.0015 million granted to some officers in 2020 and during the audit period in 2021.

The report said this was a violation of Paragraph 1011 of the Financial Regulations 2009, which says that ” all outstanding imprests must be retired on or before 31st December of the financial year in which they are issued while Special Imprests shall be retired immediately the reasons for which they were granted cease to exist.”

The auditor-general recommended that the money be recovered and remitted to the treasury, while evidence of remittance must be forwarded to Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly.

If these did not happen, sanctions relating to non-retirement of advance and imprest as prescribed in paragraph 3124 of the Financial Regulations 2009 be applied, the nation’s chief auditor prescribed.

Payment for travels without approval

Similarly, NOTAP was indicted by auditor-general for paying N27.115 million for 14 officers to attend various courses and seminars within and outside Africa between March and December 2019 without the approval of Secretary to Government of the Federation or Head of the Civil Service of the Federation as required by extant regulations.

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Such approvals were not attached to the payment vouchers nor were they presented for audit. The report said the act had led to loss of government funds and diversion of public funds.

The auditor-general recommended that the money be recovered and remitted to the treasury, while evidence of remittance be forwarded to Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly.

If these did not happen, sanctions relating to irregular payment and failure to spend public funds effectively as prescribed in paragraphs 3016 and 3115 of the Financial Regulations 2009 be applied.

Sitting allowance

The report equally accused NOTAP of paying N2.147 million irregularly for sitting allowance and honorarium.

NOTAP was accused of paying N537,600 as sitting allowances to 3 officers who were just doing their routine jobs. The payment was in addition to their regular salaries. Moreover, NOTAP paid N1.610 million as honorarium to members of its editorial board in respect of the submission of printed copies of Volume 6 of the Office’s newsletter.

The payments were also irregular, said the report, noting that the situation had led to loss of public funds and diversion of funds.

The nation’s chief auditor recommended recovery of the money and relevant sanctions if the money was not recovered and remitted to Nigeria’s purse.

NOTAP defends itself

However, NOTAP rose to its defence, faulting the position of the auditor-general. In its response to the auditor-general’s queries on the diversion of the IGR, NOTAP said the use of the word “diversion” was detrimental to the image of the parastatal, arguing that Section 12 (sub 1 a-e) empowered it to make payments for incidental benefits, including terminal benefits, which “NOTAP Governing Council graciously approved.”

NOTAP added that “the office also obtained the approval of National Salaries Incomes And Wages Commission for the payment of Peculiar Allowance.”

On the payment for lunch and travel allowances, NOTAP contended that the payment was for staff working extra hours and on weekends.

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“The Office has noted the payment of stipends as transport/lunch and will henceforth be treated as overtime to be duly signed by the relevant Director and approved by the Director General.”

On the retirement of imprests and cash advances, NOTAP said the staff were working from home at that time and could not provide copies of their retirements.

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