By Henry Umoru

ABUJA— THE Senate, yesterday, constituted an ad hoc committee to probe alleged non-remittance, under-remittance, misuse, and other fraudulent practices in the collection, accounting, and expenditure of internally generated revenue by all revenue generating agencies of government for a period of four years, beginning from 2012 to 2016.

The Senate charged the six-member ad hoc committee to carry out a holistic review of leakages, non- remittance and misuse of revenue generated, even as there were claims that the agencies were under-remitting billions of naira realised every year.

It will be recalled that the Federal Ministry of Finance two weeks ago, announced the constitution of a committee to recover un-remitted operating surpluses of agencies of government running into N450billion.

The Ministry of Finance committee, led by the Accountant General of the Federation, Alhaji Ahmed Idris, is to reconcile the operating surpluses of 31 revenue-generating agencies of government for the period 2010-2015.

The Ministry stated: “The findings of the committee so far, have shown under-remittance of over N450 billion, which has accrued within the period.”

The Finance Ministry had stated that staff of the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation had critically reviewed the accounting statements of the agencies, which include the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Petroleum Technology Development Fund, PTDF; National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC; Nigerian Television Authority, NTA, and the Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC, among others.

The Committee will, therefore, be inviting the management of these agencies to explain why their operating surpluses had not been remitted as mandated by the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007.

Sections 21 and 22 of the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007, specifically stated that: “The government corporations and agencies and government owned companies listed in the Schedule to this Act (in this Act referred of as “the  Corporations”) shall, not later than six months from the commencement of this Act and every three financial years, thereafter, and not later than the end of the second quarter of every year, cause to be prepared and  submitted to the Minister their Schedule estimates of revenue and expenditure for the next three financial years.

“Each of the bodies referred to in sub-section (1) of this section shall submit to the Minister not later than the end of August in each financial year: A: An annual budget derived from the estimates submitted in pursuance of subsection (1) of this section…”

Some of these agencies have incurred huge expenses on overseas training and medicals, and huge expenses on behalf of supervisory ministries and other organs of government involved in oversight or regulatory functions without appropriate approval.

Other infractions include payment of salaries and allowances to staff and board members, governing councils, and commissions which are outside or above the amount approved by the Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Allocation Commission, RMFAC, and the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission.

The list also includes unacceptable expenses incurred on donations, sponsorships, etc; unfavourable contract signed for revenue collection by a third party; granting of staff loans that have not been repaid as well as sale and transfer of assets to board members, among others.”

Senate President, Bukola Saraki, while setting up the committee, frowned on the practice, just as he said that revenue agencies generated over N1.5 trillion last year, but could only deliver less than N500 billion.

He added that it was pertinent at this junction, to block all revenue leakages for the government to execute programmes.

The committee is expected to submit its report to the Senate for further consideration within six weeks.

Resolutions of the Senate were sequel to a motion by Senator Solomon Adeola (APC, Lagos West), titled Urgent Need to investigate Revenue Generating Agencies over alleged Leakages, non- remittance and Misuse of Generated Revenue.

Adeola was supported by Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu; Deputy Senate Leader, Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah; Senate Chief Whip, Senator Olusola Adeyeye and Senator Ahmed Lawan.

According to Senator Adeola, there has been outcry from the executive arm of  government on the leakages, and non-remittance of revenue by revenue generating agencies of government with the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, calling on the National Assembly to intervene to curb the corruptive tendencies depriving government of revenue for developmental purposes.

According to him, at a recent National Economic Council meeting, the Federal Ministry of Finance 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 Mobilisation and Fiscal Allocation Committee, monetization of medical allowances, unapproved overseas travels, lavish training allowances and excessive personal loans approval contrary to the letter of the 1999 Constitution and the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2007.

Senator Adeola, who noted that all revenues and monies raised or received were expected to be paid into the consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation, however, revealed that the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2007 was enacted to ensure transparency, accountability and prevent corrupt practices in relation to public revenues and expenditure.

The ad hoc committee which has Senator Solomon Adeola as chairman, has senators Andy Uba, PDP, Anambra South; Fatimat Raji Rasaki, PDP, Ekiti Central; John Enoh, PDP, Cross River Central; Yusuf Abubakar Yusuf and Yahaya Abdullahi as members.

Speaking further, Saraki said: “As I keep on hammering, independent revenue and non-oil revenue are very important areas of our budget. This independent revenue is 37 per cent.

‘’You remember that 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 their targets.

“The inability to meet the target is not that they do not have the capacity to meet the target. The problem is that there is too much abuse of operating surpluses where people spend up to the last Naira in all.

‘’I think the best way forward is for us to address this issue in blocking these leakages and I believe that in constituting the adhoc committee, we would just take the best hands and still bring people from Finance and Public Accounts Committees.”

In his contribution, Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who noted that there was need to review the existing laws setting up the agencies, said, however, that if the revenues generated were carefully monitored, there might be no need to borrow money to fund the budget.

“We have a lot of leakages. I think it is time for us to look back and look at those laws. We need to look at those laws and review them. We are talking about borrowing money to fund the budget, whereas monies generated are going into private pockets,” he added.

Contributing, Senator Ahmad Lawan, APC, Yobe North, said: “Some of these agencies have their Acts supported by law. We have to amend these laws. Another thing we can do is to intensify our oversight.

‘’We need to know how these agencies utilise the funds. Many of these agencies are just there. We should be looking at reducing these agencies so that those that will be left to collect revenues will be thoroughly supervised.”

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