The Senate Public Accounts Committee has commenced investigation into the alleged sale of two Prado Jeeps worth N31 million at N1.5 million by officials of the Lake Chad Research Institute, Maiduguri, Borno State capital.
The committee made the discovery while scrutinising the 2015-2018 Auditor General's report currently being treated by both chambers of the National Assembly.
According to the AuGF report, the Prado jeeps were procured in 2013 and 2014, respectively but were sold three years after they were bought.
The AuGF had issued a query based on the inability of the management of the institute to provide reasons for the sale of the jeeps at such a low price.
The query reads: "The management of the Institute could not account for two Toyota Prado Jeeps, which were purchased in 2013 and 2014 with registration No. 45KOIFG for one Jeep while the other had not been registered. No reason was given for not registering the second Prado Jeep. In addition, a Toyota Hiace bus with registration No. 45KO3FG could not be accounted for during an audit.
"This is a violation of Financial Regulation 2128 which states that 'Every public officer is personally and pecuniary responsible for government property under his control or in his custody. The inability of the management of the Institute to account for Government property under their custody suggests abuse and mismanagement, as Government property may have been diverted to private use. The Executive Director is required to account for the vehicles. The issue was communicated to the Executive Director through my Audit Inspection Report Ref. No. EIAD/WTR 16/CORP/4 dated 21st December 2017 but he failed to respond."
The Institute in its response said the vehicle was purchased on March 21, 2014, at the cost of N18.7 million, adding that the former Executive Director, Dr. Oluwasina Olabanji, sought the approval to board the vehicle to the former Chairman of the Institute Governing Board, Mr. Yakubu Tsala at the cost of N750,000 only.
The Institute also explained that the second Prado Jeep was purchased on September 18, 2013, at the cost of N12.4 million and a request for approval to board the vehicle and was written to ARCN dated June 7th, 2017.
The Chairman of the Committee, Senator Mathew Urhoghide yesterday, expressed shock when the current Executive Director of the institute, Dr. Alhassan Bibinu, told the committee that he was using a refurbished Hilux as an official car.
The Committee thereafter directed the Institute's boss to come along with the former Executive Director who allegedly gave the order for the sale of the two Prado Jeeps.