Unremitted N450bn: FG to prosecute revenue generating agencies’ officials – Punch

By  Ifeanyi Onuba, Abuja

The Federal Government on Thursday said it would prosecute any official of revenue generating agencies indicted in the audit report, which revealed that N450bn was not remitted to the Consolidated Revenue Fund Account.

The unremitted amount, which involved about 33 revenue generating agencies of government, was for the 2010 to 2015 fiscal periods.

The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, who gave the hint during a media briefing on Internally Generated Revenue of government agencies, said the report of the special audit conducted by the ministry revealed serious infractions in some of the agencies.

She said a decision had already been taken that the reports on some of the indicted agencies would be taken to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, while those of the others had been made available to their respective parent ministries.

The minister said the accounts of 33 agencies of government covering 2010 to 2015 had been audited, adding that a total sum of N450bn was recoverable from the agencies.

Some of the agencies are the Central Bank of Nigeria, Nigeria Shippers’ Council, Nigerian Export Promotion Council, National Health Insurance Scheme, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority and Nigerian Communication Commission.

Others are Nigerian Postal Service, National Information Technology and Development Agency, Nigerian Television Authority, Bureau of Public Enterprises, National Pensions Commission and Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Plc.

The list also has the Raw Material Research and Development Council, Nigerian Ports Authority, Nigerian Export Processing Zones Authority, Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, and the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria.

Adeosun said, “The financial regulations are very clear. Where audit reports have indicted some of the officers, because some of the audit reports are going to the EFCC, some of the auditors’ findings are so serious that a decision was taken that those particular reports must go to the EFCC.

“The Ministry of Finance is not a prosecuting agency; ours is to investigate and hand over to the relevant agencies. All the audit reports have been sent to the parent ministries so they can take appropriate actions; and where there are breaches of procedure, the audit report states what procedures have been breached.”

Adeosun lamented that while the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007 was designed to provide guidelines and controls to elicit greater accountability and transparency in fiscal operations, actual compliance by revenue generating agencies had been poor.

This, according to her, has resulted in revenue leakages as confirmed by the audit findings conducted by the Finance ministry.

The minister gave the infractions committed by the agencies to include non-remittance and under-remittance of operating surpluses to the Consolidated Revenue Fund; operating without an approved budget; overstating of budget and spending above budgeted amount; and under-reporting of revenues.

The audit report, according to the minister, also revealed that payments were made without invoices and payment receipts, while loans and grants were given to parent ministries without prior approval.

It was also found out that the agencies had poor book keeping, failed to reconcile accounts and had in existence irreconcilable differences.

Some of the agencies, according to Adeosun, lack a fixed asset register and maintain inadequate internal audit process with weak internal controls.

There were also the issues of their failure to submit audited financial statements; payroll fraud and exaggeration of payroll costs; overpayment of staff salaries and abuse of personnel grants; as well as unapproved monetisation of medical and other allowances.

When asked what the ministry was doing to stop the leakage of revenue, the minister said a circular had been issued requesting the submission of vital documents for review and approval.

The documents are estimates of revenues and expenses for the next three financial years; as well as annual budgets and projected operating surpluses.

She said a review team had been set up to evaluate submitted estimates before budget submission to the National Assembly.

Adeosun added, “Agencies that do not review and approve their budgets as advised will be restricted to payment of salaries until the budgets are regularised. This circular is backed by an Executive Order of Mr. President. Demand notices have been issued to affected agencies for the payment of outstanding operating surpluses.

“These agencies have also been invited to a meeting scheduled to hold on the 6th of December, where they are required to submit a repayment plan or face appropriate sanctions, including deduction of amounts owed directly from their Treasury Single Account balance.”

The minister disclosed that a circular had been issued on the approved template for the computation of operating surpluses.

She said, henceforth, the ministry would not allow any revenue generating agency to incur what she described as “non-allowable expenses in the computation of operating surpluses.”

The non-allowable expenses, according to her, are salaries and staff loans in excess of the approved scale by the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission; monetisation of medical and other allowances; expenditure in excess of approved limits; and donations to individuals, political and charitable organisations.

The agencies, according to the minister, have also been mandated to disclose additional information in their financial statements such as expenses incurred on behalf of supervisory or regulatory agencies.

Others are salaries and allowances paid to board of directors, governing council and commissions outside the approved amounts; donations, sponsorships, gifts and their beneficiaries; and items sold or transferred to staff or board members.

She noted that some agencies had started making remittances to the CRF; adding that N640m had been received from the NSC.

The minister put the total independent revenues generated between January and October 2016 at N272.03bn, adding that the government was targeting to increase this to N811.03bn with the recovery of more amounts owed.

She revealed that as part of the measures to check revenue leakage, a new financing model would also be instituted for universities and hospitals.

This, she noted, would take into consideration their funding model and requirements for better controls and improved service delivery.

She added that a circular on the inclusion of 92 additional corporations, agencies and government owned companies to the schedule of the Fiscal Responsibility Act had been issued.