By Ogar Monday; House of Assembly Correspondent
The Cross River House of Assembly has passed a resolution mandating the State Revenue court to recover from the former Local Government Chairman of Obanliku, Mrs. Benedicta Kakwa and some former staff of the Local Government monies amounting to, over 15 million Naira (NGN15, 000,000) allegedly misappropriated and embezzled by the former chairman and her accomplice between 2008 to 2011.
This was contained in the report submitted to the house in plenary by the Public Account Committee and read on the floor by the chairman of the Committee and Member representing Obudu State Constituency, Honorable Stephen Ukpukpen.
The committee held that the sum of NGN1. 5 was paid to Prince Eugene Abraka who was then the Special Assistant to the Council Chairman on Political and Legislative Affairs to enable the Team from Obanliku participate in the Democracy Day Celebration of 2010.
A review of the said expenditure showed that the Chairman gave approval for the funds while in Calabar pending Executive Council (EXCO) ratification but minutes of the council Exco’s meeting revealed that the council approved the sum of NGN1 million and upon questioning by the committee, Benedicta and Prince Eugene said that the difference was a typographical error, an explanation the committee didn’t take.
The committee through the report observed that the sum of NGN5,246,000 representing the amount of Withholding and Value Added Tax deducted from the jobs executed in the council were not remitted to the appropriate tax authorities.
In her reaction to the audit report date July 25, 2011, Mrs. Benedicta observed that for every approval for payment to contractors, instruction were given for appropriate tax deduction and remittance to relevant agencies.
“Surprisingly, the Director of Finance (DF) at that time, Mr. Godwin Aniah who was responsible to ensure the deductions and remittance of the prescribed taxes did not make a representation on the matter which implies that Mr. Aniah has no explanation to offer,” she said.
The committee therefore recommended that Mr. Godwin Aniah return to the council treasury the sum of NGN5,246,000 being tax not paid to various relevant agencies.
Furthermore, the report held that the sum of NGN3,478,000 was approved by EXCO on May 4, 2010 for the purchase of materials/tools for 185 security staff of Obanliku Local Government Council comprising the Peace Corps, Civil Defense and Council Security men in the month of June 2010.
However, the sum of NGN3,400, 000 was released in two installments to Ukandi Inakafe for the purchase of the said tools in September 2010, but on Audit inspection of the stores record, it revealed that the Items, in some cases were not bought and in other cases were not up to the number paid for.
For instance, instead of 185 rain boots and 185 rain coats 50 of each item were supplied, instead of 185 cartons of Batteries only 10 were supplied, instead of 185 torch lights 120 pairs were supplied and an undisclosed number of knives and batons were said to be purchased with no record of such being issued.
The committee’s recommendation was therefore, that Mr. Inakefe Ukandi return to the council’s treasury the sum of NGN2,123,000 being the difference of the amount of NGN3,400,000 received for the purchase of working tools for council security.
The report also stated that the sum of NGN5,000,000 was released by the council to a certain Akomaye Utsu, the Special Assistant to the Chairman at the time for the purchase of 40 motorcycles, 30 sewing machines and 30 hairdressers for empowering citizens of the local government council and upon auditing, none of the items was found to have either been bought or distributed as supposed.
The committee asked that the Former Chairman Benedicta, Akomaye Utsu, the Former Director of Finace and Supplies, Mr. Godwin Aniah and the Former Director General Services and Administration Mr. Ukandi Unakefe within sixty days of the adoption of the report by the assembly bring evidence to show that the said items were actually purchased and evidence of those who received same, without which they should be made to refund the money to council.
Also, the report held that as at December 2010, Obanliku Local Government Council paid out the sum of NGN14,500,000 as litigation bills. Audit discovered that three cheques and payment vouchers were made in the name of a council staff Mr. Vincent Ola instead of Barr. Barrister Mathew Ojua and Co., solicitors and advocate, the recipient of an initial NGN2,000,000. The report also stated that audit could not find any documentary evidence of the engagement of the legal firm and agreed terms of engagement.
The committee also recommended that Mr. Vincent Ola be given 60 days from the day of the adoption of the report by the House of Assembly to present evidence of the engagement of the law firm or be made to refund the said cash.
The former chairman and the Former director of works were also indicted for swindling the council of NGN9,750,000 on the guise of renovating Councils secretariat and were ask to return same amount to council’s treasury.
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