The Council for Legal Education, the body that runs the Nigerian Law School, spent more than 5 billion naira in violation of financial regulations in 2019, the latest audit report from the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation (OAuGF).

More than 3 billion naira is expected to be collected and turned over to the treasury by the school’s director general, Isa Chiroma, in office since 2018, including the period of suspicious transactions in 2019, the audit report recommends.

He also requests explanations from Mr. Chiroma, Senior Counsel for Nigeria, for various transactions.

President Muhammadu Buhari reappointed Mr. Chiroma for a new four-year term effective January 10, 2022.

Highlights of the issues raised regarding transactions totaling around 5 billion naira include misapplication, embezzlement, waste and embezzlement of public funds, non-payment of taxes and payment to contractors without supporting documents or for works. not executed.

Some of the transactions were payments for unapproved overseas travel to London and some African countries by Nigerian law school officials, the report added.

He cited a case of inappropriate non-consumption of 2.4 billion naira as the 2018 closing balance.

“The sum of 2,408,708,784. 92 was the closing balance for 2018, which was carried over to 2019 as the opening balance, and the unspent balance was used contrary to the regulations in force,” the report states, also revealing how the law school violates financial regulations.

Director General of Nigeria Law School Isa Chiroma

Payment of contractors without documents, others

Other offenses listed in the report include unauthorized investment of grants, circumvention of procurement procedures, unauthorized payment of irregular allocations, award of contracts and payment without tax deduction and payments made. without relevant documents.

For example, the law school paid 32 contractors for more than 182 million naira without receipts or other relevant documents in 2019, according to the audit report.

“The above payments were made without attaching the relevant documents such as payment receipts, invoices, quotes, certificate of completion of work and tender documents to supporting payment documents to justify effectiveness of funds. “

Attributing the “anomalies” to weaknesses in the internal control system of the Bwari-headquartered law school in Abuja, the audit report added that the payments may have been for “outstanding work, loss or damage. embezzlement of public funds ”.

The report also highlighted 65 payments totaling 891.4 million naira “made to contractors for supplies and renovations” without publicity of contracts and proof of the competitive bidding exercise.

He said “no tender documents or any other relevant information attached to the vouchers to ensure that there was open competitiveness and fairness in his duties and selection of contractors, in accordance with the law on contractors. 2007 public contracts “.

140.9 million naira doubtful, non-payment of internally generated income

The report also raised the issue of a questionable payment of around 140.9 million Naira for various expenses.

It indicated “N140, 864, 834.76 in 2019 for various expenses as shown in the cash book through forty payment vouchers”, but “none of the payment vouchers were presented for review, which makes it difficult for auditors to validate payments “.

Of the more than 1.55 billion naira made as Internally Generated Income (IGR) for 2019, according to the report, around 387.9 million naira, estimated at around 25% of the amount realized, is expected to be paid into the fund. consolidated income.

But the law school only returned 25.2 million Naira, leaving an unpaid balance of 362.7 million Naira, which the report classified as “loss of government revenue or embezzlement of government funds.”

Non-payment of tax, questionable compensation

In addition, the audit report observed that over 72 million Naira were paid to contractors for the supply of diesel.

But “the value added tax (VAT) amounting to N3, 751, 770.00 and the withholding tax (WHT) amounting to N413, 820.00, have not been deducted from payments to entrepreneurs “.

Another area of ​​reported breach was the payment of N188.8 million to various staff as compensation in 2019.

“Sitting allowance was paid for holding day-to-day committee meetings for which officers received salaries, and approvals for such allowances were not obtained from the National Wages, Incomes and Commission. wages, ”the report revealed.

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He also unearthed 67 million naira which the law school “invested in a commercial bank via a fixed deposit instruction”.

“Relevant documentary evidence such as an investment certificate indicating the interest rate and tenure has not been presented for review,” the report said.

He added that neither the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari nor of the Federation’s general accountant had been requested to “operate the account with a commercial bank outside of the Treasury Single Account (TSA)”.

In addition, “store items totaling 83, 128, 499. 97 N, purchased using ten cash vouchers were not counted against the store ledger charges, and no store receipt vouchers. nor any store issuance vouchers were found in the store or attached to payment vouchers made in respect of the supply.

The law school’s response

Meanwhile, the law school denied all the alleged offenses.

He denied the misapplication of the balance of 2.4 billion naira that was reportedly carried over from the previous year.

“The Nigerian Law School year typically begins around the October / November period and the bulk of the tuition fee, which constitutes most of the internally generated income, is collected around this period just before the close of the year. federal government financial statement on December 31.

“You can’t go a year collecting in two months and continue afloat for the whole year,” the law school said, citing the report in its response to a question.

Regarding the circumvention of purchasing procedures, the school administration explained that “some of these cash advances were linked to the purchase of certain unavailable items and sellers prefer cash rather than going through them. rigors of contract award “.

He also insisted that he had complied with the provisions of the Public Procurement Law of 2007, including publicity for the projects included in the Appropriations Law of 2019 was respected when awarding and execution of contracts.

The law school said the contracts were successfully performed in accordance with the guidelines set out in the award letter.

He added that the various minutes and documents from the Legal Education Markets Board that the audit report said had not been provided “are now available for audit inspection.”

He also denied the non-payment of tax and withholding tax, saying the list of expense items (diesel and gas) was on tax exemption lists.

“The sum of 413,000 N invoiced or deducted as withholding tax has been remitted.

“However, the sum of N8,717,586,47 stamp duty will be remitted in due course.”

The school further argued that it did not violate any law relating to procurement procedures.

Recommendations

Despite the school’s denials, the audit report recommended the recovery of certain funds and the justification of other various transactions.

He specifically asked the Director General of the Nigerian Law School to “hand over the sum of N 2,408,708,784.92 to the treasury and” forward the proofs of payment to the National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee. “

It was also asked to “apply the sanctions relating to irregular payments and serious misconduct specified in the financial regulations”.

The report called on Mr. Chiroma to collect and return to the treasury N891.367.842.31 allegedly paid to 65 contractors in violation of the public procurement law.

He must also “transmit proof of payment to the public accounts committees of the National Assembly”.

The report also asked the director of the law school to “provide reasons for investing in a commercial bank without complying with the regulations in force on such an investment.

“Provide authorization for investment of N67,000,000 in commercial bank.”

The Director-General was also asked to justify the granting of non-personal advances exceeding the threshold of 200,000 naira.

“Collect and return the sum of N9.8 million to the treasury,” the report said, among other recommendations.

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