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By Henry Umoru
ABUJA- THE Senate has queried the Ministry of Foreign Affairs over how a former Nigeria Ambassador to Israel used $134,000 meant for domestic servants.
The Senator Matthew Urhoghide, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Edo South led Senate Committee on Public Accounts is at the moment investigating the allegation levelled against the former Ambassador as contained in the 2015 Auditor General of the Federation submitted to it.
The Senate Committee on Public Accounts is relying on queries raised by the Auditor General of the Federation.
Meanwhile, in its defence before the Committee, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in a written response claimed that the cost of hiring of domestic servants was usually higher than what was granted to the Ambassador as allowances for domestic servant especially as relates to the Israeli minimum wages.
The query from the Office of Auditor General of the Federation read, “The sum of $134, 400.00 was paid directly to an Ambassador during his tenure for domestic servants. The direct payment of domestic staff salary to the Ambassador is contrary to the terms of engagement as spelt out in the appointment letter which insists on domestic staff salary to be included on Mission’s payroll. Therefore the sum of funds has to be refunded.
“The Permanent Secretary has been requested to recover and pay back to chest, the sum $134,400.00 paid directly to the Ambassador, forwarding evidence of recovery for audit verification purposes.”
The response by the foreign ministry response in writing read, “on the grounds of public policy, particularly the provisions of the condition of services of the Ambassadors/Heads of Mission, the Ambassador hired his own domestic servant and security personnel in accordance with the Israeli labour laws and as such, paid their allowances directly from his personal account.
“The cost of such hiring was usually higher than what was granted to him as allowances for domestic servant especially as relates to the Israeli minimum wages.
“He could not have operated effectively at the home front in the Residence without hiring some hands to man the vast grounds, help his wife at home front with the chores which in the case of Tel Aviv post is beehive of activities. If there has been an apparent lapse in the method of payment, it must have been for administrative convenience and nothing else .However, the observation has been duly noted and corrected.”