Non-remittance of federal revenues

2010-02-15
THE PUNCH Newspaper


As with public service establishments based within the country, Nigeria’s foreign missions have

reportedly become outposts where regulations and laws regarding public finance are brazenly discounted. Like other relevant public accounts monitoring bodies complained before, the 2008 Audit Report by the Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation shows that revenues accruing from visas and other services provided by some embassies in 2008 were not paid into the Federation Account as stipulated by the 1999 Constitution.

In separate attempts since 2000, the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission, the Federation Account Allocation Committee, the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, and committees of the National Assembly had also documented several breaches of the Financial Regulation and the provisions of Section 162 of the 1999 Constitution dealing with Public Revenue.

The Embassy of Nigeria in Paris, France, for instance, collected N271,810,955.20 within the year but failed to remit the amount to the said Account. The Embassy in Lisbon, Portugal, collected N21,756,822.73, while that in Moscow realised US$94,819.00 as revenue. Neither of the two complied with the relevant regulations of the civil service, and the amounts have yet to be accounted for.

A section of the Audit Report states: “Financial Regulation 412 stipulates that “no expenditure on any subhead of the recurrent estimate in excess of the provision in the approved estimates may be authorised by any officer controlling a vote, without approval of the National Assembly, which will be sought by means of an application for virement or supplementary provisions.” But between 2003 and the first quarter of 2008, N3.6 trillion was collected by ministries, departments and agencies, according to the findings by the House of Representatives Committee on Finance, released on July 22, 2008. Of the amount, N1.5 trillion was not paid into the Federation Account and was unaccounted for.

In September 2007, the FAAC had accused the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, the Department of Petroleum Resources, the Federal Inland Revenue Service and the Nigeria Customs Service of withholding sums totalling N660 billion, being revenues that should have been remitted to the Federation Account, otherwise known as Distributable Pool Account.

Hundreds of thousands of barrels of crude oil sold daily by the NNPC from allocations for domestic refining have not been accounted for since 2000, despite repeated protestations by the RMAFC in memoranda to The Presidency and the National Assembly. No attempt has been made by the Federal Government to compel the NNPC to account for the proceeds. It is the same with the US$209 million stolen from the signature bonus for Oil Prospecting Lease 245, as alleged in the NEITI Audit Report and confirmed by the House of Representatives ad hoc Committee that probed the operations of the NNPC and the DPR in 2008.

The impunity with which public functionaries, from The Presidency down to local councils, loot the nation’s economic resources has reached abominable level. So is the indifference of successive administrations. It is regrettable that a democratic order, with its inherent checks and balances, as currently in place in our country, is bereft of mechanisms to instill some sense of accountability and transparency in the public service.

A government on a genuine mission to bolster developmental activities and enhance the quality of life of its citizens cannot but strive to maximise all the resources available to the nation. Nigerians are eager for signs that government is so inclined and that the myriad problems of collapsed infrastructure, poor healthcare delivery, an educational system not up to par, and a dysfunctional internal security apparatus could be adequately dealt with soon enough through improved efficiency in revenue collection and sound accounting practices.

The authorities must initiate moves to trace missing funds, as established through the many probes of the National Assembly and other bodies, and to recover same. Culprits must be exposed and punished to serve as a deterrent to others and as evidence of a national commitment to ethical standards and accountability.

 

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