Micheal Okpara University of Agriculture mired in 22 corruption scandals worth over N12b

MICHAEL Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, Abia State, has been mired in 22 corruption scandals amounting to over N12 billion.

These was contained in the 2020 audit of Nigerian ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) by the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation (OAuGF).

The audit report, released by the Office in December 2023 but made available to the public recently, uncovered many corruption scandals and abuse of office within the university between January 2018 and December 2019. 

These scandals, ranging from diversion and misappropriation of public funds to non-remittance of internally generated revenue and statutory taxes, were the highest of all the universities indicted. 

While the OAuGF did not explicitly mention the name of the vice-chancellor recommended for probe over the corruption cases by the National Assembly, Francis Otunta, a professor of Mathematics, was serving as the university vice-chancellor during the period captured by the audit.

Payment of N43m for items not supplied 

The OAuGF uncovered how the university, in October 2018, paid N43,211,880.06 for different items, including supply, installation, and training for a Xerox 125 printer/scanner/copier, solution + server, UPS (APC) 10KVA, and stabilizer (NEXUS) 10KVA. 

It noted, however, that relevant documents such as store receipts, vouchers, ledgers, bin cards, issued vouchers, and requisition forms were not produced for scrutiny.

The action violated paragraph 798 and paragraph 603 (i)  of the Financial Regulation (FR) 2009, which prohibits payment for services not yet performed or goods not yet supplied and mandates MDAs to provide appropriate vouchers for scrutiny.

Non-remittance of IGR, statutory taxes

While both the treasury circular (TRY/A108B10/2016 OAGF/CAD/026/V.111/101) and the financial regulations emphasise the importance of MDAs limiting their annual budgetary expenditure to no more than 75 per cent of their gross revenue and remitting the remaining 25 per cent to the consolidated revenue fund (CRF) on or before the 15th of the month following the month of revenue collection, the university failed to produce evidence that N444 million was remitted to the CRF.

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According to the Auditor General, the sum of N1.7 billion (N1,780,842,140.88) was the internally generated revenue in 2018 by the university, out of which N445,210,535.22 was expected to be remitted to CRF.

Similarly, the university failed to provide evidence of the remittance of  N18 million (N18,848,076.18) deducted as withholding taxes (WHT) and stamp duties from various contracts between 2016 and 2017 from the needs assessment account.

It also noted that the internal auditor’s report for the third and fourth quarters of 2019 reaffirmed the non-remittance of statutory taxes.

The act was despite paragraph 234(i) of the Financial Regulations (FR) 2009, mandating every “accounting officers to ensure full compliance with the dual roles of making provision for the value-added tax (VAT) and withholding tax (WHT) due on supply and services contract and actual remittance of same.” 

In addition, paragraph 235 of the FR 2009 states, “deductions for WHT, VAT, stamp duty and PAYE shall be remitted to the Federal Inland Revenue at the same time the payee who is the subject of the deduction is paid.”

Irregular payment of university staff salaries from personnel account

Citing violations of the Nigerian Constitution and extant regulations, the report further revealed that N72,811,978.82 was made through 12 paid vouchers to university staff, school and security guards from January to December 2018.   

According to the investigation, the payments were made from the personnel account of the university without evidence of appropriation from the National Assembly, adding that the actions were in contravention of extant regulations.

The report quoted section 80(4) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), stating that “no money shall be withdrawn from the consolidated revenue fund or any other public fund of the Federation, except in the manner prescribed by the National Assembly.” 

Repeated violations of procurement laws

Findings by the OAuGF also revealed repeated breaches in the country’s procurement law by the university.

While section 24(1) of the 2007 Public Procurement Act (PA) states that except as provided by the Act, all procurements of goods and works by all procuring entities shall be conducted by open competitive bidding, the university failed to provide evidence to show that the procurement was a result of open competitive bidding.

According to the report, the sum of N39.5 million was paid to various contractors for the procurement of automotive gas oil (AGO), with no evidence, such as quotation of bidders, to show open competitive bidding made available for audit. 

Also, non-personal advances totalling N167,651,377.90 were granted to staff for the purchase of goods and services, despite an existing law which stipulated that all local procurements of goods and services costing above N200,000.00 should be made only through the award of contracts, except as provided by the Public Procurement Act.

Furthermore, officers were granted multiple cash advances without retiring previous ones. These advances exceeded the N200,000.00 threshold set for direct procurement of store items, thus circumventing procurement procedures and Financial Regulations. 

The OAuGF further noted that the university’s actions resulted in the loss of N16,765.137.79 that would have accrued to the government through taxes.

    Vice chancellor failed to return six pool vehicles worth N95 million

    The report also revealed that the former vice-chancellor of the university did not return six pool vehicles belonging to him despite the expiration of his designated term of use. 

    The vehicles, with a collective value of N95 million, were intended for institutional use and were expected to be returned upon the end of the vice chancellor’s term.

    Besides, the OAuGF noted that three black Toyota Prado Jeeps, two black Toyota Corolla Salons, and one Lexus Jeep of different registration numbers were lost at the hands of the former vice-chancellor.

    Citing the Paragraph 1 of the Establishment Circular Ref. No. SGF. 19/S.52/V/720 dated 20th February 201, which  states that “as part of measures to curb this undesirable practice by officers, permanent secretaries and chief executive officers of ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) are henceforth to ensure painstaking and strict clearance of retiring officers who should be made to submit all government properties in their custody before their final disengagement from service…”

    Other corruptions linked to the university are:

    • Irregular payment of N4.7 million for Christmas party and other expenses
    • Irregular engagement of insurance broker and payment of premium N10.9 million
    • N18 million paid vouchers from personnel accounts not presented for audit
    • Irregular payments of N107 million from IGR
    • Payment of N7.2 million without relevant supporting documents (possible diversion of public funds)
    • Unsubstantiated payments of N32.7 million to traditional rulers (possible diversion of public funds)
    • Violation of the e-payment policy of the Federal Government (possible diversion of public funds)
    • Unsubstantiated payment of N3.4 million for rent of a property in Abuja
    • Irregular payment of cash advances worth N26.6 million
    • N94.4 million cash advances granted for procurement of goods and services was higher than the statutory threshold 
    • Misuse of N8.4 IGR
    • Ineligible payment of N1.4 million to a professor for a differed leave 
    • Under-performance of revenue budget (N38 million loss)
    • Paid vouchers of N11 billion not stamped (possible diversion of public funds and duplication of payment)
    • Engagement of external solicitors without the approval of the Attorney General of the Federation, resulting in payment of N4 million

    Usman Mustapha is a solution journalist with International Centre for Investigative Reporting. You can easily reach him via: [email protected]. He tweets @UsmanMustapha_M

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