Independent Auditors To Investigate Missing $20b Oil Money, Says Okonjo-Iweala

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The Minister of Finance and Coordinating minister of the economy Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has disclosed that the Federal Government is to hire independent forensic auditors to examine the books of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, with a view to ascertaining whether or not it has failed to remit oil revenues to the Federation Account.

The minister made the statement at a press briefing in Abuja, yesterday, after appearing before the Senate Committee on Finance which is investigating the alleged unremitted fund.

Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi at a public hearing in the Senate last week has revealed that records available to the bank showed that the total amount generated from crude oil sales was $67.8 billion while records of remittance to the Federation Account by the NNPC was $47.8 billion with a shortfall of $20 billion not accounted for.

The CBN governor who also appeared before the committee was, however, not convinced by the explanations put forward by both the NNPC and the Finance Minister and insisted that $20b was missing.

At the committee hearing, yesterday, the Minister of Finance said going by the controversy that had surrounded the remittance of the subsidy fund, there was the need for external auditors to carry out a forensic auditing of NNPC account on the issue.

Iweala said: “Our judgment is that a proper examination of these documents requires technical expertise beyond the capacity of the reconciliation team and, therefore, we believe we should have an independent forensic audit, managed independently of these submissions.

“We have decided to let the forensic auditors examine the accounts (of the NNPC) and let Nigerians fully know what is going on.

“We understand that this kind of forensic audit requires experts who have some knowledge of the petroleum industry because it is very specialized.  What the NNPC submitted was a mountain of documents on shipping, loading, when ships arrived and all that. It requires specialized forensic auditors to work on it.

“There is a proper process going in this country and all those writing should know that there is due process in this country.  Reconciliation has been going on in the last two years.

“The oil account is a very complex business. For example, oil is lifted to pay back what is called “carry arrangement “ in which oil is supplied for loans taken by NNPC in the past and is to be paid back in crude oil to those creditors who gave NNPC those loans. So when you look at it, someone can say there is a missing x number of barrels which should have been accounted for.  But it is used in paying for debt owed by the NNPC.

“That is why we are asking for forensic audit so that we can have all these things clearly verified. You can’t just look at the balance of payment numbers- you will not get it right.  Those are some of the reasons why we said it is a complex issue. Let us get the experts into this and let them give account to Nigerians”.

She added that “the issue of unremitted funds by NNPC is not new and all attempt to make it look as if the work that should be done in this country to reconcile accounts by the Ministry of Finance is not true.

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