COVID-19: SGS okays Radisson for safety…Says no plans to increase VAT, taxes

…FG has no monitoring mechanism on revenue leakages — AGF

…As Senate kicks against non-monitoring of revenue intakes of 240 agencies

By Henry Umoru

THE Federal Government, yesterday, raised the alarm that the projection of $40 benchmark price of crude oil as contained in the 2021 Budget may not be feasible, following the outbreak of the second phase of COVID-19 pandemic in Europe.

Speaking in Abuja when she appeared before the Senator Olamilekan Adeola, All Progressives Congress, APC, Lagos West led Senate Committee on Finance, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, also told the Senate  that a new Finance bill was on its way to the National Assembly, but noted  that it will not come with any increase in VAT or taxes.

She said: “We have a finance bill ready. There will be no increase in VAT or taxes. We see 2021 as year of recovery.”

Also during the budget defence,   Accountant General of the Federation,   AGF, Ahmed Idris, bluntly told the Senate that the federal government does not have the required, robust platform of monitoring revenues inflow of the various revenue generating agencies of government.

According to him, this has actually affected his office from effectively blocking the various loopholes of revenue leakages across the various revenue generating agencies.

Accountant General’s admittance of lack of robust mechanism of monitoring revenue inflows of the various agencies and blocking of leakages was in response to questions asked by members of the Senate Committee on Finance.

On his part, the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Adeola, asked the AGF whether his office had any mechanism of monitoring revenue inflows of the various revenue generating agencies and by extension blocking the leakages in the system.

The AGF said:  “We don’t have any monitoring mechanism for now, aside the Treasury Single Account, TSA, platform  which is not robust enough for the mechanism you are requesting.

READ ALSO: We’re putting in place strategies to maximise non-oil revenue – FG

“We are trying to work out a robust mechanism to monitor revenue inflows of the entire 300 revenue generating agencies in blocking loopholes of revenue leakages.

“But for now , through the TSA,   revenue inflows of about 60 out of the 300 revenue generating agencies are being well monitored.”

Angered by the AGF’s submission, the committee chairman and other members, such as Senators Ayo Akinyelure, PDP Ondo Central;   Adamu Aliero, APC Kebbi Central; Opeyemi Bamidele, APC Ekiti Central, wondered why only 60 of 300 revenue generating agencies were   being monitored.

The Senate AGF to urgently come up with an accounting software application that will enable government monitor revenues online in real time.

According to the Finance Committee,   the AGF should work out the modalities and include the cost in the budget for his office for 2021, just as it   queried the AGF after it allegedly discovered that he had been making deduction of 25% directly and on monthly basis from the revenue of some agencies and not remitting same into the Federation Account.

The committee which noted that such action clearly violated the extant laws, said such procedure would require the amendment of the Fiscal Responsibility Act, adding that the AGF must ensure that the amendment was included in the proposed Finance Bill 2021 the executive planned to forward to the National Assembly.

Adeola said: “This is unacceptable and very injurious to efforts being made for revenue generation in financing the N12.6 trillion 2021 budget “Robust mechanism that will cover all the 300 affected agencies must be put up if government desire of blocking leakages is to be taken seriously.’’

The chairman, who also kicked against what he described as monopolistic usage of REMITA platform for revenue collection in the country, said: “Using it as the sole platform is not acceptable. We need more formidable platforms for revenue collection because there are a lot of complaints about REMITA.’’

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