Minister Buhari in Double Payment Mess for Hotel Accommodation N993,000


Trade and Investment Minister Okechukwu Enelamah is embroiled in a mess of double housing allowance payments of N 993,000, according to details in the Federation’s Auditor General’s annual report for 2016.

The controversial payment, the report revealed, was made to the minister after his appointment by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The 2016 report, which contains details on the financial records of federal government ministries, departments and agencies, is the latest from the Office of the Auditor General (OAuGF). It came out last month.

Details in the report show that N993.195 was paid at a hotel in Maitama, Abuja, for accommodation and food for the minister during the first days after his appointment. The audit report noted, however, that the Minister also received a separate allocation of N 980,000 for his first days of allocation in lieu of hotel accommodation.

The Auditor General in his remarks frowned at the curious double payment and instructed the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Commerce to recover the amount paid to Mr. Enelamah and ensure that proof of collection is provided.

“Therefore,” the report states, “the payment of the sum of N993,195 (nine hundred and ninety-three thousand one hundred and ninety-five naira) to the hotel cannot be justified.”

“In view of this, the payment of N993,195.00 for hotel accommodation and food for the Honorable Minister cannot constitute an appropriate and legitimate charge on public funds.

“The Permanent Secretary must recover the sum of 980,000.00 Naira paid to the Honorable Minister in lieu of hotel accommodation and provide proof of recovery for my verification.”

From the details in the report, it is not clear whether the Permanent Secretary complied with the Auditor General’s directive, as no evidence of reimbursement by the Minister was entered in the report.

When PREMIUM TIMES contacted Bisi Daniels, strategy and communications advisor at the Ministry of Trade and Investment, he said the ministry had opened an investigation into the controversial payments.

“There was some confusion, with the likelihood that the second payment was mis-titled,” he told our reporter on Tuesday evening. “The essence of these audits is to correct errors of this nature. The correction will be made promptly after the investigation.

Last September, PREMIUM TIMES reported details of a similar payment made to Minister of Women’s Affairs, Aisha Alhassan, as stated in the Auditor General’s report for 2015. The payments, totaling 11, 7 million naira, was made by the Federal Ministry of Women. Business and Social Development to enable Ms. Alhassan and other staff to undertake ‘familiarization visits’ to anonymous skills training centers in select states in 2015.

But the report found that an “audit investigation established that the allegedly acclaimed assessment visits to skills training centers had never been undertaken.”

The details of the report further show irregularities in the payment processes, record keeping and dating of said visits. Following these irregularities and in the absence of any justifiable defense, the Auditor General also mandated the ministry to reimburse the 11,700,000 N to the account of the federation.

It is not known if the amount was refunded as stated.

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