Posted by Mathias Okwe, Chijioke Nelson and Anthony Otaru | 23 December 2018 | 1,935 times
With the revelation that N2.81t is unremitted or being held back by Government-Owned Enterprises (GOEs), the Federal Government has unwittingly exposing its stark failure on fiscal transparency and sheer lack of willpower to enforce extant fiscal rules, so says development experts.
It is also a reflection of the shadow coverage of the much-talked about Treasury Single Account (TSA) and the sustained leakages in government’s revenue streams, they asserted.
Last week, the Director-General of the Budget Office, Mr. Ben Akabueze, lamented that the country was facing dire financial challenges, with the Federal Government’s budgeted independent revenue performing at a mere 36 per cent, as of September.
Akabueze, who was addressing chief executive officers of GOEs in Abuja, said the figure for the unremitted revenue came from a long list of 50 defaulting outfits, and consisted of unremitted revenues in the current year, as well as, those brought forward from previous years.
Leading the pack of debtor outfits are Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) N1.343t; Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) N801b; Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) N192. 1.b; Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) N66.081b, and Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) N51.991b, among others.
Akabueze, who spoke exclusively to The Guardian, yesterday, on the matter, warned that GOE’s refusal to remit the surplus fund was predisposing to country to financial challenges, with budget performance at core of the risk.
He, however, pointed out that some agencies have started complying with settling the debt, which dates back to pre-TSA era, while others are still dilly-dallying, even as he warned that the last notice had been given.
Akabueze said that some agencies were already contesting the figures, which was generated after audit of their transactions by the relevant agency, but have been asked to come up with their counter claims.
“They are supposed to transfer the difference between what the revenues collected is, and what they actually spent out of their approved budgets. That is the position of the law. But over the years, some have either failed to comply or transfer less than the actual value. In the new framework, there is a four-month timeline after the fiscal year to remit the final outcome of the transactions.
“This is not a behaviour to be condoned. If government had done that before, maybe, that would have been the reason for the rise, but I don’t think any ego is being massaged now, otherwise the matter will not be made public. We have called them in open forum and government has laid out its new rules going forward, for dealing with this situation and making it clear that there would be sanctions for non-compliance. Nobody is, and will be massaging anybody’s ego,” he said.
The Director-General of the Debt Management Office, Patience Oniha, also told The Guardian, yesterday, that such behaviours have been behind the endless shortage of fund, leading to further borrowings to prod growth.
“There was a move to compel them to remit 20 per cent of the revenue and list of items that are allowable, because government once realised that left for some of these agencies, there would not be a surplus. But such move did succeed.
“So far, some of these agencies, after an audit, have agreed to pay, but that it should be spread over a period, because if you collect the money in bulk, their operations would be stalled. Some have started paying after the audit, but a lot are still left behind,” she said.
Reacting to the matter, an Abuja-based development consultant, Jide Ojo, alleged that some GOEs are still spending their revenues without legislative approval of their budgets.
“It seems there’s double standard in the application of TSA under this administration. The payment of subsidy, which the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation called “under-recovery” from the revenue of Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas earlier in the year, is a case in point.
“There’s need for clarification from the Presidency whether GOEs are exempted from TSA, otherwise there should be severe punishment for this infraction,” he said
The Lead Director of the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), Eze Onyekpere, said the misdemeanor was an indication of a government that is not properly working, explaining that the loopholes are the things a government with proper Fiscal Responsibility Commission should have been plugging.
“I believe they are even owing more than this, and that the issues are more than this, especially the deduction of stamp duties on banking transactions. Where is that money? Maybe it has gone between craters and black holes. The financial system regulators are talking stories and there are trillions in that account but not reviewed and nobody is asking questions,” he said.
•Excerpted from The Guardian report
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