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MINISTRY DENIES FRAUD IN FOREIGN MISSIONS

By NBF NEWS
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By Ngozi Sams
March 25, 2010 03:46AM
The former minister of foreign affairs, Ojo Maduekwe briefing state house correspondents in Abuja. Photo: NAN

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday claimed that the figures contained in the recent Auditor-General of the Federation's report on the financial operations of foreign missions were not right.

Martin Uhonoihbi, Permanent Secretary, said the ministry has set the records right regarding the alleged misappropriation of N500 million by three Nigerian foreign missions in France, Russia and Portugal quoted by the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation and as published in one of the national daily newspapers(not NEXT).

Facts and figures
The Permanent Secretary told journalists in Abuja that, “The Audit examination, which was conducted in 2008, revealed that the sum of 1,273,059.60 Euros(N271,810,955.20) was realised as revenue by the Paris-France mission but was not paid into the appropriate government revenue account at J.P Morgan Chase Bank in New York.”

He said this was not so that “Contrary to Auditor General for the Federation's report, the sum of 1,153,735.76(210,113,280.20) was generated. The entire collection has been paid into the relevant bank in New York by the Mission.”

Mr. Uhonoihbi equally maintained that the figures presented by the Auditor General's Office for the Moscow-Russia Mission is faulty saying that “in the case of Moscow, the sum of $94,819.00 (N138443,516.16) was said to have been realised during the same period. However, it is quite obvious that $94,819.00 do not translate into N138,443,516.16 as indicated in the report.

“Going by the prevailing exchange rate at the time, the naira equivalent was N12,350,174.75 and not N138,443,516.16 as asserted. Of this amount, the sum of $91,669 has been paid into the Independent Revenue Account in New York in two tranches of $62,105(8,089,176.25) and $29,564 (3,850,711), leaving a balance of $3,150(N410,287.50).”

He also faulted the figures released for Lisbon-Portugal saying that “the sum of 101,902.82 Euros (N21,756,822.73) was said to have been generated by the mission. The equivalent was N18,558,093.06, instead of N21,756,822.73. The collection was on accumulated revenue from 2005.”

He equally stated that of this amount, the sum of 25,500Euros (N4,643,947.80) was also paid into the Independent Revenue Account, leaving a balance of 76,402.82 Euros (N13,914,154.41).

Finance constrained
The Permanent Secretary insisted that only N14,324,432.91 is still outstanding of all the sum generated by the three missions, while N226,697,115.07 has already been credited in the Federal Government Independent Account in New York.

To him, “there are some mistakes in the reported figures released by the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation as can be depicted in the attached extract of the report.”

Mr. Uhonoihbi also admitted that the Federal Government has not funded the foreign missions abroad as expected, which is a fall out of the global financial meltdown.

“On the state of the funding of Foreign Service we have challenges. Nigeria is part of global community and as monies are budgeted for overseas mission, we have deficit budget because of the global financial crisis.”

He added that efforts are being made to tackle the challenges, saying that the wisest decision to make is to reduce expenses being incurred in the different overseas missions.

NEXT reliably gathered that plans are ongoing to close any of the foreign missions found to be involved in any financial misconduct.