ALMOST one year into the operation of the unified government bank account known as the Treasury Single Account (TSA), a fresh controversy has arisen over its legality. The Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) was reported last week to be opposed to the remittance of money into the TSA and any account other than the Federation Account, by agencies of the Federal Government.
President Muhammadu Buhari, in a bid to ensure discipline, transparency and efficiency in the management of the nation’s finances, had in August last year, directed all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to remit their earnings into the TSA, which was domiciled at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
But the RMAFC, in a recent letter to the National Assembly, argued that federal agencies funded through the Federation Account, such as the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), Nigerian Postal Services (NPS) and Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), were set up for the Federation and not just for the Federal Government. It insisted that the laws which allow these government agencies to keep money that they generate, or pay it into any account other than the Federation Account for the use of the three tiers of government, violate the 1999 constitution.
The RMAFC is of the view that the laws should be amended to make these agencies remit their revenues into what it called the “rightful account”. It further averred that the TSA, as being implemented by the Buhari administration, is nothing but another name for the Consolidated Revenue Fund belonging to the Federal Government, and not the Federation Account that is stipulated in Section 162 (1) of the Constitution.
The letter to the National Assembly recommended that the laws setting up the affected revenue-generating agencies should be reviewed. It explained that the agencies, since they are owned by the Federation, should remit their funds to the Consolidated Revenue Fund as allowed by the various Acts setting them up and in line with the Financial Regulations. It affirmed that the remittance of revenue into the TSA by these agencies is a clear violation of the constitution.
We urge the Federal Government to carefully consider the position of the revenue commission on this matter. Its position and some of its suggestions are not without merit.
For example, Section 162 (1) of the Constitution (as amended) stipulates that all revenues collected by the Government of the Federation should be remitted into the Federation Account, with few exceptions such as the Personal Income Tax of members of the Armed Forces and the Police, and also the residents of the Federal Capital Territory.
It is advisable that the laws relating to revenue remittances be reviewed.
This is because some of the federal agencies in question were established during military regimes and were financed from the common pool of the federation. Besides, these agencies operate and administer assets such as land, seas and airways, all belonging to the federation, in addition to having operational presence across several states of the country. These are weighty reasons for these agencies to remit their revenues to the Federation Account, as suggested by RMAFC.
However, it is necessary that the dust being raised over the constitutionality, or otherwise, of the TSA is allowed to settle without splitting hairs. It is not in doubt that the TSA has many merits, particularly in ensuring greater transparency and accountability in the management of public funds, which were largely lacking before the introduction of the TSA.
Therefore, government should do whatever is necessary to legalize the operation of the TSA. It should set in motion the processes that will lead to the amendment of all the laws that are contrary to its operation, including the ones setting up the agencies.
The TSA, since it came into effect, has greatly improved transparency in the management of government finances. Until now, the MDAs operated multiple bank accounts, many of which were not known to anyone other than their operators. The funds in these accounts oftentimes ended up in the personal accounts of unscrupulous civil servants.
We believe the TSA has come to stay and that the over N2 trillion that it now holds will be used for the public good. The need for efficient management of government revenue calls for the remittance of all government revenue into a common purse, from which it will be disbursed in a transparent manner. This need should supersede all the arguments against the TSA.
Altogether, what is required is for all hands to be on deck in the effort to ensure that all government revenues are accounted for and judiciously utilized through the effective operation of the TSA.
We also advise RMAFC to dialogue with the Federal Government and the MDAs to resolve the issues over TSA, instead of acting in a manner that seems to suggest it is in alliance with the National Assembly to derail the operation of the TSA.