Reps reopen probe of PTDF



 

PUNCH

 

Published 3/25/2008 1:54:00 AM

 

Reps reopen probe of PTDF’s missing $4.4bn

 

Chiawo Nwankwo, Abuja

The House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts has initiated moves to locate a whopping $4.4bn belonging to the Petroleum Technology Development Fund.

The amount is what the agency earned as signature bonus in 2004, 2005 and 2006 bid rounds for oil blocks, which was not paid to it, contrary to the Act that established it, and undisclosed revenue from ‘other sources.’

It has, therefore, decided to summon the Accountant-General of the Federation, following a disclosure by the PTDF Executive Secretary, Alhaji Kabir Mohammed, that the agency did not know the actual accruals from signature bonuses.

A signature bonus refers to the value of an oil block payable to the government by an oil firm.

While $3.2bn was unaccounted funds in 2004, $1.2bn represented unaccounted dollar accruals in 2005 from signature bonuses, according to the committee.

A financial balance sheet submitted to the committee showed that the spaces for US dollar receipts for 2004, 2005 and 2006 were blank.

Also, questionnaires formulated by the committee for the PTDF raised questions on why other sources of revenue from 2003 were not disclosed.

Mohammed led other senior members of staff of the PTDF last Tuesday to a session with the committee, during which he submitted a brief on the agency’s operations between 2003 and 2007.

But disturbed by the puzzling picture of its financial details from 2003 to 2007 as well as its expenditure profile, the House Committee, chaired by Alhaji Usman Mohammed, directed that the AGF be summoned.

The PTDF boss reportedly told the committee that only the AGF could explain what happened to its statutory funds not released.

According to him, financial releases to the agency were done through the rule of the thumb by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, contrary to the Act that established it.

He said that Obasanjo felt that statutory accruals to the PTDF, which represented about two per cent signature bonuses paid by oil companies was huge, and more than its capacity to manage.

Details from the PTDF documents to the committee obtained exclusively by our correspondent showed that it spent a total of N56, 881,301,567 in local currency from 2003 to 2007.

On the other hand, its revenue profile showed that it received $145m in 2003 and N1.616bn in local currency.

In 2004, only N3.325, 558,798 was released to it, while it recorded zero allocation in dollar, just as N3.904bn was released to it in 2005 without the dollar component.

In 2006, it got two sets of releases in local currencies, comprising N10bn and another N3.385, 934,742.

Curiously, in 2007, its funding increased as it received $250m, while its local currency receipt stood at N4, 894,250,588.

In a 20-part questionnaire for the PTDF, the committee said, “Give the source of ‘other incomes’ generated which amounted to N1.6bn, $3.2bn, N3.9bn, N3.3bn and N4.8bn for 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 respectively.

“Who granted the revenue release of $145,000,000, $250,000,000 in 2003 and 2007? Why are there no such foreign exchange components in 2004 to 2006?”

Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar had accused former President Olusegun Obasanjo of funding the Peoples Democratic Party’s 2007 electioneering campaigns through the PTDF, when he appeared before the Senate ad hoc committee that investigated financial scam in the agency in the run up to the general elections.

But according to the PTDF, it has funded the building of the ICT centres in 24 universities, 20 federal Colleges of Education and 102 Unity Schools spread across the federation.

Also, under its overseas scholarship scheme, over 500 Nigerians have obtained masters and doctorate degrees in oil and gas related disciplines, just as 90 students had benefited from its undergraduate programmes in 2007.

It stated, “The universities infrastructural upgrade has improved the learning the environment in the beneficiary departments of beneficiary universities.

“These departments are, therefore, able to turn out more skilled and better equipped graduates with better prospects of being absorbed in the oil and gas labour market.”

The committee chairman, Mohammed, told our correspondent that his committee was not satisfied with what the PTDF presented.

He, therefore, ordered the committee to “furnish it with audited accounts and management report on PTDF.”

On the universities that benefited from its funding, the committee demanded the list of the affected universities and the specific work done.

It said, “Give the universities and specific work done in them as well as total amount spent on each university and project. Give locations where this committee can see them physically.”

The PTDF remained a desk in the Department of Petroleum Resources in the Ministry of Petroleum Resources until September 2000 when Obasanjo administration removed it from there and made it an autonomous body.

Funds accruable to it are mainly from oil block signature bonuses, and all its programmes and activities are approved by the Minister of Energy (petroleum) who is the President.

Obasanjo doubled as minister of petroleum for over seven years of his eight year tenure.

 

 

 

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