The Senate yesterday resolved to investigate alleged misuse, under-remittance and other fraudulent practices in the collection and accounting of internally generated revenue by revenue generating agencies.
The investigation, the Senate agreed, will cover all revenue generating agencies including the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) and others from 2012 to 2016.
The resolution followed the adoption of a motion which prayed the upper chamber to “constitute a high powered ad-hoc committee to investigate the alleged misuse, under remittance/non remittance and other fraudulent practices in the collection, accounting, remittance and expenditure of internally generated revenue by all revenue generating agencies of government from 2012 to 2016.”
A six-member panel of investigators to be headed by Senator Solomon Adeola, (Lagos West) was mandated to submit its report to Senate in plenary in six weeks.
Adeola who sponsored the motion in his lead debate noted that Section 80,subsection 1-4 of the 1999 Constitution (as Amended) of the Federal Republic of Nigeria clearly stipulated that all revenue, moneys raised or received shall be paid into the consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation.
He further noted that the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007 was enacted to ensure transparency, accountability and prevent corrupt practices in relation to public revenues and expenditure.
The Lagos West lawmaker said that he is aware that Section 21 -23 of the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007 clearly limited corporations, agencies and government owned companies listed in the Schedule to the Act to the expenditure of only a fifth of its operating surplus with the balance paid to the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federal Government.
He expressed concern that the Acting Chairman of Fiscal Responsibility Commission, Victor Muruako on November 8, 2016 “raised the alarm over leakages in revenue and remittances which he said has assumed alarming proportion in the last 5 years with some Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) producing two different statement of accounts in an attempt to manipulate their operating surpluses and losses.”
Adeola said that he is also aware that at “the last National Economic Council meeting, the Federal Government specifically accused revenue generating agencies of raising over N1.5 trillion and expending over 90 per cent on recurrent expenditure mostly in paying bloated salaries and controversial allowances above Revenue Mobilization and Fiscal Allocation Committee, monetization of medical allowances, unapproved overseas travels, lavish training allowances and excessive personal loan approval all amounting to financial misconducts.
He expressed worry that “these corporations, agencies and government owned companies have over the years grossly violated the letters of the 1999 Constitution and the Fiscal Responsibility Act in relation to their revenue generation activities and expenditure.”
Adeola said that he is disturbed that various audit queries against the agencies over the years further indicated possible mismanagement of public funds against the spirit of the Constitution and Fiscal Responsibility Act.
He noted that it is a matter of concern that in view of Federal Government dwindling revenue from the traditional crude oil sector and the on- going recession, “these government bodies are continuing in short changing government of needed revenue through various illegal practices.”
He thereafter prayed the Senate to resolve to constitute a high powered ad-hoc committee to investigate the alleged misuse, under remittance/non remittance and other fraudulent practices in the collection, accounting, remittance and expenditure of internally generated revenue by all revenue generating agencies of government from 2012 to 2016 and submit a report in six weeks.
Adeola added that there was no doubt that all revenue generating agencies including the NPA, FIRS, Customs, have been misappropriating generated revenue.
The agencies, he said, have largely ignored the provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility Act that compelled them to remit all generated fund to the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation.
Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, in his contribution noted that most Nigerians were concerned about how to share the cake without bothering about how to bake the cake.
He said that it is time for the Senate to take a second look at the law regulating activities of the revenue generating agencies to determine whether there was need to review the laws in order to bloc leakages.
Ekweremadu said, “Every day we talk about how to share the cake but today we have the privilege and opportunity to discuss how to bake the cake and I think there is enough cake to go round except that we have a lot of leakages and some of these leakages were created by us.
“I think that we must admit that when those laws were made they were made with the best of intentions but just as they say the road to hell is also made with the best of intentions. I believe that since they have been abused it is for all of us to look back and have a second look at those laws and ensure that they are appropriately amended or put appropriate measures to ensure that these leakages are fixed.”
Senator Ahmed Lawan, in his contribution stressed the need for the Senate to do more and if possible to reduce the number of the agencies “because we don’t actually need all of them.”
Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah said that issues raised in the motion should be given the seriousness they deserve in the interest of the country.
Before the prayer to set up a committee to probe the alleged misuse of funds by agencies was unanimously adopted, Senate President, Abubakar Bukola Saraki underscored the importance of independent revenue to the economic health of the country.
Saraki noted that if the Senate was able to block leakages in the agencies, it would help the funding and performance of the 2017 budget.
Saraki said, “I want to join others in thanking Senator Solomon Adeola for this very important motion. As I keep on harming on our independent revenue and non-oil revenue is a very important area of our budget. This independent revenue is 37 percent; you remember last year it was almost N1.5 trillion and am being told now that this year is likely to come down to N500 billion because they could not meet the target.
“Inability to meet the target is not that they don’t have the capacity to meet the target and there is too much abuse on this operating surpluses where people spend right up to the last naira in all. I think the best way forward as you said it would even help the 2017 budget if we address this issue in blocking this leakages and I believe that in constituting the ad-hoc committee we would just take the best hands and still bring people from finance and public accounts and capable people who would be able to address this.”