The minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige has responded to the All Progressives Congress (APC) chairman’s comment threatening to fire him.Oshiomhole accused Ngige of refusing to inaugurate boards of parastatals under his ministry as directed by the president several months ago.
According to the APC chairman, “Ngige’s conduct constitutes a lack of respect for the president and the party and could lead to his dismissal from the party and his cabinet position.”
Ngige’s reactionAccording to Vanguard, the minister said those accusing him of refusing to inaugurate the Board of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), because he wants to award contracts, are ignorant of the Procurement Act.
Ngige said that his reason for not inaugurating the NSITF board is because of reports of diversion of funds to the tune of N48b.
A statement issued by the ministry’s spokesman, Samuel Olowookere said “The attention of the Hon. Minister of labour and Employment, Sen. Dr. Chris Ngige has been drawn to media reports that his office appropriated the powers of the Board of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund( NSITF) in the award of contracts, hence the delay in inaugurating the board of the agency.
“Such a blatant falsehood is either on account of fertile ignorance or outright mischief or both by the originator as well as the peddlers. It is therefore imperative that the provisions of the Procurement Act 2010 which is clear and unambiguous on the process for the award of contracts be re-emphasized.
“For clarity purpose, the Ministerial Tenders Board (MTB) for the award of contracts in any Ministry is made up of the Permanent Secretary as chairman and his Directors, while in the parastatals, the Parastatals Tenders Board consists of the Chief Executive Officer (Director General or Managing Director) and his Directors .
“The Minister is not a member and therefore does not award contracts. Similarly, members of Board of Directors being non-members of the Tenders Board of the parastatals do not also award contracts. It is therefore a stunningly crass ignorance for anyone to claim that part of the reasons for the delay in the inauguration of the board of the NSITF or any parastatal was to enable the Minister usurp the role of the board as regards the award of contracts.
“When the threshold of the award is above a parastatal, such contracts are referred to the MTB for final approval. Such also is the case with the Ministerial Tenders Board threshold which is referred to the Bureau for Public Procurement and from there, to the Council of Ministers called the Federal Executive Council for treatment and ratification. So in effect, the Federal Executive Council is not a contract awarding body and hence Ministers do not award contracts stricto senso!
“It is our humble view therefore that those in authority should be versed in little basic issues that guide public governance so as to be properly guided in their utterances to avoid unnecessary character assassination and unfortunate misinformation of the general public.”
Ngige releases panel reportMeanwhile, the chairman of the panel mandated to probe the NSITF fraud allegations, Mr Ishaya Awotu has revealed that there were irregular allowances to the tune of N5.7 billion paid to staff and management.
According to Awotu, the panel found out that between 2013 and 2017, the internal Audit Department of the NSITF did not audit the cashbooks of the various bank accounts at the headquarters.
The chairman also explained that the lack of effective auditing of the Fund’s accounts and records violates section 1701 of the Financial Regulations.