Chairman of the House of Representatives ad-hoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy Regime Monitoring, Farouk Lawan
By Onwuka Nzeshi
After weeks of suspense and speculations, the House of Representatives Ad Hoc Committee on Monitoring Fuel Subsidy Regime Wednesday submitted its report and recommended that some participants in the subsidy scheme should refund N1.070 trillion to the treasury for violating the programme.
The report came down heavily on petroleum marketing companies and industry regulators, accusing them of complicity in the perceived fraud, systemic lapses and illegalities inherent in the administration of the subsidy regime.
It indicted the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) for allegedly feasting on the Federation Account to bloat the subsidy figures; the marketers of claiming subsidy on products not supplied and accused the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) of laying the foundation for the fraud by allocating volumes of products each quarter to marketers who did not even meet the guidelines for participation in the subsidy scheme.
Highlights of the report indicated that the NNPC is expected to refund N310 billion in respect of excess subsidy claims on kerosene; N285 billion for subsidy claims collected above official recommendations and another N108 billion discount on the oil behemoth grant itself.
Similarly, a number of petroleum product marketers have been asked to refund N8.664 billion for violating the Petroleum Support Fund (PSF); companies that refused to appear before the panel are to refund a total of N41.93 billion, while the PPPRA has been asked to pay back N312 billion which it allegedly paid itself in excess of its due.
The Ad Hoc Committee said that contrary to the earlier official figures of subsidy payment given by the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), it was established that subsidy payments of N2.587 trillion was made as at December 31, 2011.
The report also disclosed that the N2.587 subsidy payment amounted to more than 900 per cent over and above the N245 billion appropriated for subsidy in 2011.
"We found out that the subsidy regime as operated between the period under review (2009-2011) was fraught with endemic corruption and entrenched inefficiency. Much of the amount claimed to have been paid as subsidy was actually not for petroleum products consumed in the country. Government officials made nonsense of the Petroleum Support Fund (PSF) guidelines due mainly to sleaze and in some cases incompetence. It is therefore apparent that the insistence by top government officials that subsidy figures were for products consumed was a clear attempt to mislead the Nigerian people.
“Our investigation further revealed that certain marketers collected subsidy of over N230.184 billion on PMS volume of 3,262,960,225 litres that from the records made available to us were not supplied. Apart from proliferation and non-designation of bank accounts for subsidy payment, PPPRA and the OAGF were unable to manage in a transparent manner the two accounts they chose to disclose. There were indications that PPPRA paid N158 billion to itself in 2009 and N157 billion in 2010. When confronted, the OAGF was unable to submit details of the bulk payments arrogated to PPPRA and the account from which the bulk sums were disbursed to the supposed beneficiaries,” the report said.
The Ad Hoc Committee however, proposed that N806,766 billion be set aside for payment of subsidy on petrol and kerosene in the 2012 fiscal year.
In the course of the investigations, the Ad Hoc Committee said it was able to establish that contrary to statutory requirements and other guidelines under the Petroleum Support Fund (PSF) Scheme mandating agencies in the industry to keep reliable information data base, there seemed to be a deliberate understanding among the agencies not to flout this rule.
"This lack of record keeping contributed in no small measure to the decadence and rots the Committee found in the administration of the PSF. This is evident also in the budget preparatory process by MDAs where adequate data is not made available to the National Assembly. The Committee had to resort to forensic analysis and examination of varied and external sources (including the Lloyds List Intelligence) to verify simple transactions. In this regard, the PPPRA is strongly urged to publish henceforth, the PSF accounts on quarterly basis to ensure transparency and openness of the subsidy Scheme.
“The Committee believes that if the PSF scheme was properly managed, this sum of N1.070 trillion would have been available to the three tiers of Government for budget enhancement,” the report said.
The committee recommended that certain transactions executed under the subsidy scheme be further investigated by the relevant anti-corruption agencies and determine their level of culpability with a view to making further recoveries.
The transactions include the payment of N999 million to unnamed entities 128 times to the tune of N127.872 billion; companies who collected Forex to the tune of $402.610 billion but whose utilisation of the said funds were found questionable; while 72 companies listed under the financial forensics were recommended for further investigation by the relevant anti-corruption agencies with a view to establishing their culpability and recovering the sums indicated against their names totalling N230,184,605,691
Also recommended for further scrutiny are the over recoveries of N2.766 billion and N5.27 billion which were not accounted for by the office of the AGF as well as the cases of double deductions by the NNPC for subsidy payments in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
The committee also recommended that NNPC should be unbundled to make its operations more efficient and transparent.
According to the report, this could be achieved through the passage of a well drafted and comprehensive Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).
Above all, the committee recommended that all those in the management and board of the NNPC directly involved in the infractions identified for the years 2009-2011 should be investigated and prosecuted for abuse of office by the relevant anti-corruption agencies.