From Adetutu Folasade-Koyi, Abuja
Some Federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) have accumulated debt of over N2 trillion, Chairman of the Fiscal Responsibility Commission (FRC), Chief Victor Muruako, has said.
Muruako, who disclosed this, at a parley with media executives in Abuja, organised by Order Paper Advocacy Initiative in Abuja, yesterday, also urged Federal lawyers to complete the process of amending the FRC Act, 2007, before the expiration of the Ninth Assembly in 2023.
On borrowings, Muoka said the “FRC Act provides that the threshold should be set for all tiers of government. What has happened? Has that threshold been set? All tiers of government have been around in this Commission but, if we, the people, have demanded that the FRC should be implemented, most of the challenges we have in government wouldn’t have come up.
“Some govt agencies owe over N2 trillion…As we move forward, we should focus on revenue leakages. Nigerians should also insist on the need to set debt limit
“I also think we should also demand for the immediate amendment of the FRC Act, 2007. There have been three key attempts at amending the Act and, as Nigerians, we should ask why, when this amendment gets to a certain stage, it gets stuck, unlike some bills.
“I’m convinced that, if the Act is properly amended, the Executive has made inputs, and, if we miss it this time, we may be discouraged to push it again.”
He added that while the extant FRC Act seeks to provide for prudent management of the nation’s resources, ensure long term macro economic stability of the national economy, secure greater accountability and transparency in fiscal operations within a Medium Term Fiscal Policy Framework, the Commission was established to ensure compliance of the Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) with the Fiscal Responsibility Act.
Muruako lamented that recent amendments to the Finance Act and the enactment of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) have grossly whittled down the powers of the Fiscal Responsibility Commission to perform its duties of monitoring government income and expenditure effectively.
He reiterated that certain amendments to the Finance Act have tended to erode the powers of the Fiscal Responsibility Commission and prevent it from enforcing the rules.
He also disclosed that part of the amendments being sought to be made to the FRA includes a provision for the Fiscal Responsibility Commission to have enforcement and prosecutorial powers over the MDAs. He said that the current situation where the FRA has been weakened has given the MDAs the leeway to flout the provisions of the law and get away with it.
He also disclosed that the proposed amendment to the FRA would set a limit to borrowing by the government, adding that had there been such a legal provision, Nigeria would not have found itself in the current revenue crisis signposted by debt overhang.
Nigeria has been faced with hard choices as regards income and spending even as the burden of debts and more borrowing continues to constrict prioritisation and effective delivery of public good. Latest data from the Debt Management Office (DMO) puts the country’s total public debt at N41.6 trillion as at the first quarter of 2022.