The revelation by the Senate Committee on Finance that 60 Federal Government’s agencies failed to remit a total of N3trillion in six years (2014-2020) is shocking. The nefarious action is a breach of Section 162(1) of the 1999 Constitution, which mandates that all revenues collected by government agencies must be paid into the Federation Account. The failure of the agencies to do exactly that, or under-declare the revenues they generate, also contravenes the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007.
The amount involved is about 30 per cent of the 2021 budget and almost the amount provided for debt servicing for the year. Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, Solomon Adeola, who disclosed the development, stated that the breach was uncovered during the Committee’s investigation of remittances by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs). It is believed that the failure of these agencies to pay what they generated into the Federation Account or the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) has worsened the present financial crisis facing the government and caused the current borrowing binge. The situation has also increased the nation’s debt stock to over N34 trillion, from N18.89 trillion the Buhari administration inherited from its predecessor in 2015.
We decry the recurring financial malfeasance in these agencies and call on the government to urgently stop the rot. The continued breach of extant laws in these agencies should no longer be tolerated. The government should muster the political will to cleanse the Aegean stable in the MDAs. The level of corruption in them as revealed by the Office of the AuGF, and now the Senate Committee on Finance, can no longer be tolerated, particularly at this time that the government is facing financial crisis.
It is disturbing that some of the MDAs are frustrating efforts by the government to meet projected revenue for public expenditures. Although such infraction is not new, it should no longer be allowed to fester under any guise. In this period of fiscal uncertainty, government must plug all loopholes and other underhand practices that permit such financial infractions in the MDAs. Let the government do more to tackle systemic corruption in the agencies and other sectors. It is not enough to raise the alarm. Stamping out corruption in these agencies will go a long way to enable government implement its policies and programmes.
In 2017, the office of the Auditor-General of the Federation (AuGF) gave a damning report on the financial records of many MDAs. It uncovered huge financial infractions and mismanagement of funds totaling over N1trillion. The then AuGF, Mr. Anthony Ayine, disclosed that the deficiencies were evident in the processes for consolidating the balances of MDAs into one economic entity. The 2017 Audit Report also revealed that 160 government agencies violated fiscal and audit rules, and defaulted in the submission of audited accounts for 2016, and 265 for 2017 financial year. Besides, 11 MDAs were found to have never submitted any financial statements since inception. Some years ago, the Federal Government vowed to prosecute 33 of its agencies over non-remittance of N450billion generated between 2010 and 2015. Up till now, Nigerians do not know how far the government has gone with the prosecution.
To check the rot in these agencies, we urge the National Assembly to impose stringent sanctions, including withholding financial releases, and heavy penalty on heads of the agencies that do not render timely accounts as provided in the Constitution, the financial regulations and other relevant laws. Above all, government should act on the recommendations of the AuGF’s report and stem public corruption in the MDAs. Since the main duty of the Auditor-General’s office is to protect public interest by performing a detailed and objective examination of public accounts and MDAs expenditures, it should not relent to do so.
Despite the directive that all MDAs must close their accounts with commercial banks and remit all revenues to the Treasury Single Account (TSA), it is sad that huge financial infraction takes place almost on a yearly basis. Not acting on the recommendations of the Auditor-General will defeat the promise of the present administration to fight official corruption, particularly in the MDAs.