As Commission says amendment of Act’ll strengthen operations
By Gabriel Ewepu and Alice Ekpangb – Abuja
Following the ongoing fight against corruption by the Buhari-led administration, a Civil Society Organisation, CSO, Paradigm Leadership Support Initiative, PLSI, on Friday, threw weight behind calls for amendment of Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007, to make the desired impact to sanitise the system.
This was stated by the Executive Director, PLSI, Segun Elemo, at a one-day Stakeholders’ Sensitization Workshop on Proposed Amendment of the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRC) 2007, held in Abuja.
According to Elemo their role as civil society organization is to continue to deepen accountability in the country and they believe that once the Act is modified and amended it will strengthen the Fiscal Responsibility Commission, FRC, to do its work properly and aid revenue generation for the country as well as public spending.
He said: “This is an anti-corruption effort on its own, there are many institutions of government that are all fighting corruption together, you cannot talk about anti- corruption without talking about fiscal prudent, accountability and transparency, so part of that transparency effort is that agencies of government must publish regularly their audited financial statement.
“So if you generate revenue for the government
you must remit 80 per cent of that revenue to the federation account and it is all part of accountability.
“And I think that is why we all need to support the Amendment process of the Fiscal Responsibility Act.”
Meanwhile, expressing optimism over the move made to amend the FRA (FRC) 2007, the Acting Chairman, FRC, Victor Muruako, said the amendment would lead to improvement and increase in government revenue through transparency, accountability and efficiency.
Muruako said the one-day workshop organised with support from PLSI is commendable as it is aimed at galvanizing support from the media, CSOs, and citizens to ensure amendment of the Act, which according to him amendment of the Act has been ongoing for over a decade now, but if the Act is amendment it will strengthen the Commission in ensuring accountability and prudent management of public funds and expenditures.
He expressed optimism that a better strengthened commission will emerge from the new law and that it will be a win-win situation for everyone.
He said, “Fiscal responsibility is one agency of government to ensure prudence and accountability in public expending. For us to have fiscal responsibility after 11 years plus we could say that we wear the shoe so we know where it pinches.
“I think is time for stock taking, why we are here to galvanize efforts to ensure amendment to strengthen the commission, we also believe that a lot could be done to strengthen accountability
and prudent management of funds we have.
“That is why we are convinced that if this Act is amended it is definitely going to improve on government revenue. No doubt there has been some improvement but we are not yet there. This is the time to strengthen accountability because the revenue is no more there; Mr. President and the government need all the revenue. There is a need to plum all loopholes in public expenditures.
“If we do not get it right now it will be very difficult because COVID-19 has caused a big turnaround in all financial projections not only for our country Nigeria but all over the world, so all hands must be on deck.”
He also decried the attitude of some government officials who hold on to public money and fail to remit them to government coffers, and make comments as if the money is belongs to their private accounts, and called on government-owned enterprises to ensure revenue generated and collected should be remitted to the federal government.
“It is a lot of challenge because a lot of these officials have developed the habit because they believe that it is ‘our money’. They are unable to account for funds they are spending because they have not audited themselves”, he stated.
However, he (Muruako) called for punitive measures to be meted out to government officials found wanton, and it should be fully stated in the Act in order for violators of the law to ensure remittance government funds.
“The honorable minister gave a circular to remit 25 per cent gross, most of them even find it difficult to comply with that and that is why we are saying clear punishment, punitive measures should be fully stated in the Act.
“The Act should be strengthened to make provisions for its operation so that when you are violating the law you will know that there will be consequences”, he said.
On why government is finding it difficult to pay workers’ salaries the FRC boss explained that, “It is obvious that there are challenges, there are revenue challenges, if they are not buying our crude which is the key source of our revenue what do we expect?
“There would definitely be revenue challenges. We only talk about spending, we are not paid, most times we do not attune our mind that funds are not being remitted and that is why we are here.
“So there are challenges because the revenue is not coming and people are criticizing the government for raising funds but what should the government do? If the revenues are not coming the only alternative is to borrow.”