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Friday, May 1, 2015

Missing $20bn: Okonjo-Iweala disowns PriceWaterHouseCoopers, says she didn’t hire firm

okonjo
Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has distanced herself from the audit firm,
PriceWatersHouseCoopers, saying she should not be held responsible for its hiring to probe Nigeria’s alleged missing oil money, days after a widely-discredited report by PwC was released.

As finance minister and coordinator of the economy, Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala played a leading role in 2014 when PwC as hired, as the government tried to counter an allegation that $20 billion oil money had been stolen.

Former Central Bank governor, Lamido Sanusi, who made the claim, accused the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC of diverting the money.

After efforts by the government and the Senate to reconcile the sum yielded no tangible results, Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala recommended an independent forensic audit. She later announced the hiring of PriceWaterHouseCoopers.

The report containing the outcome of PwC’s investigation, was released Monday several months after the firm completed its assignment.

PriceWaterHouseCoopers however said the work should not be relied upon, as it failed to meet international standards.

In an unusual statement Thursday, Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala sought to steer clear of the audit firm, although she said her response followed a lawsuit blaming her for the hiring.

A statement released by Paul Nwabuikwu, Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala’s spoksperson, said the minister was responding to a lawsuit filed by a group of three accounting firms before a Lagos High Court, accusing Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala of violating federal local content law by appointing PwC.

The statement was issued before the minister received a formal notification of a suit, a rather unusual and prompt response seen as an attempt by Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala to comment on the PwC case.

“The CME is astonished by the news of the said court action which is spurious in the extreme,” spokesperson Mr. Nwabuikwu said. “It is shocking that professionals of the calibre of the SIAO Partners can embark on this kind of legal action without taking the trouble to do the minimum amount of homework to confirm basic facts.”

The statement said “Okonjo-Iweala did not appoint the PWC to carry out the audit”.

The minister called on those behind the suit to immediately drop it or face her in court.

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