Revenue Collection: Banks’ Withdrawal of Service May Impede Operations of TSA, Systemspec Warns

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Eromosele Abiodun and Obinna Chima

There are strong indications that the federal government’s Treasury Single Account (TSA) policy may suffer some set back following the threat by some commercial banks to stop accepting transactions on the TSA platform.

The move by the banks is as a result of the freeze on commission they charge in rendering service on the Remita platform in the past six months because of the controversies that had surrounded the policy.

The Managing Director, Systemspecs Limited, the firm that developed the Remita software used for the transfer of government’s funds from commercial banks to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) under the TSA, Mr. John Obaro, said this in an interview with THISDAY in Lagos wednesday.

He disclosed that some banks no longer honour transactions on the TSA because of the uncertainty surrounding the policy.

The Senate had last October summoned Systemspecs and the CBN over an alleged illegality and exorbitant commission charged for the deployment of Remita.

Also, the lawmakers had alleged that SystemSpecs was making N25 billion daily, which had since been proven to be false.

Part of the contract states that one per cent shall be charged on the government revenue collected. And this one per cent is to be shared thus: Owner(SystemSpecs): 50 per cent; Collecting Agents (banks): 40 per cent, and Introducer (CBN): 10 per cent.

But since the Senate hearing which then mandated Systempecs and the banks to return the commission they had previously collected, there have been a freeze on the agreed commission.

Despite this, he said his firm decided to leave the Remita platform open so as not to disrupt the government’s policy.

To this end, Obaro, who was speaking to the media for the first time since the controversy over the TSA started last year said: “A number of the participating banks, some of their branches are beginning to decline processing these transactions. Yes, some bank branches have remained committed to it, believing that this issue would be resolved somewhere along the line. We believe that it is getting more challenging, not just for those bank branches, but even for ourself.

“We originally expected that the matter would be resolved within a few days, but unfortunately, that has not happened and we left the platform open. The platform has remained in use and there have been no renumeration to the services providers six months down the road. We have had conversations with the Office of Accountant General and the CBN, and unfortunately, no closure yet.

“We are hanging in a limbo not knowing if government really wants to continue with this project and more importantly for us as a business people, where do we channel our business. We want this to come to a close as soon as possible.”

According to Obaro, it is not right for the banks to be providing services to people without income, saying they can decide to decline transactions that are not profitable to them.

He stressed that the situation has created a lot of uncertainty in the system.

“If the banks stop collecting, it would cause significant disruption to the economic life of these agencies. But I do hope that we don’t get to that point. We are concerned that this trend should not begin to spread because if it does, it will become a threat not just to our own business, but principally to the TSA.

“We are not into politics, we are a technology firm and we just want to be left alone to provide technology. Let politicians do their own trade, but they should please allow professionalism to also thrive. The two (politics and professionalism) can work together.

“At the Senate hearing, there was desperate attempt to show that there was no contract and we showed all the documents concerning the contract. There is a valid contract and it is laughable for anybody to say there was no contract.

“Many people have been pushing us to go to that court, but we do not think that should be the first line of action because we do know that there are people who mean well for this country and when these issues are well understood, it is a matter that can be resolved. If you think the one per cent is the issue, there is a clause in the contract that can justify a renegotiation, let’s look at it,” the Systemspec boss added.