N400m budget: Reps place I.A.R&T on Status Inquiry…task public office holders on accountability

The House of Representatives on Monday placed the Institute of Agricultural Research and Training (IAR&T), an arm of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) on Status Inquiry over irregularities on the utilization of N400 million appropriated fund.

The Committee Chairman, Rep. Wole Oke who issued the notice while addressing I.A.R&T’s Executive Director, Prof. Veronica Obatola during the investigative hearing into the 2018 audit query issued by the office of the Auditor General of the Federation (oAuGF) against the Institution.

Hon. Oke who expressed displeasure over the discrepancies in the presentation of the Executive Director, tasked all public office holders on the need to collectively fix Nigeria in terms of transparency and accountability in the area of public expenditure and bequeath a country to the upcoming generations.

He alleged that the sum of N21 million purportedly released in the 2018 Appropriation Act as against the N50 million appropriated did not tally with the over N400 million captured as expenditure in the Institution’s financial audit.

Similarly, the Committee dismissed the argument Prof. Obatola’s position that the increase in the expenditure was due to the fact that it covered both the 2018 and 2019 fiscal years, and that the expenditure figure carried over from the previous year were added to that of the following year.

While responding to question bothering on the receipt of loan, grant or bilateral aid (foreign or local) obtained by the Institute, Prof. Obatola denied knowledge of the fund.

However, during the scrutiny of the Institution’s financial report, the lawmaker uncovered aids running into millions of naira received by the Institution unaccounted for.

In a swift response to the audit query, Prof. Obatola affirmed that the research grants were meant for specific purposes.

While reacting to her presentation, Hon. Oke disclosed that all financial inflows including grants and loans, irrespective of its purpose must be captured in the Institution’s account books as such, in line with extant financial regulations and the provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

Worried by the development, Hon. Oke urged I.A.R&T’s Chief Executive Officer to spare some time from her research duties to ensure that financial reports are transparently prepared.

In his ruling, Hon. Oke constituted a 4-man subcommittee chaired by Deputy Chairman, Hon. Abdulkadir Sa’ad to visit the Institute on Friday, with the view to examine its books and mode of operations including assessment of infrastructure on ground.

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