• Defaulting agencies face prosecution
• Central bank says it has remitted operating surplus
Ndubuisi Francis in Abuja
Seventeen revenue-generating agencies have been summoned for a meeting to tender proposals on how they intend to repay N450 billion unremitted operating surplus into the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF).
The federal government about two weeks ago announced the setting up of a committee to recover the unremitted operating surpluses from the agencies.
This is just as the federal government unveiled plans of a new financing model for its universities and hospitals, taking into consideration their funding model and requirements, in a bid to entrench better controls and improved service delivery.
Briefing journalists in Abuja yesterday on government’s independent revenue sources, the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, disclosed that of the projected N1.5 trillion revenue target from such sources for the year, a total of N272.03 billion had been generated between January and October 2016.
Adeosun said in order to control leakages and increase revenue generation several measures had been adopted, including putting in place a new financing model for federal government-owned universities and hospitals.
According to her, the accounts of 33 government agencies had been audited for the periods 2010 to 2015, with 17 of them found to have defaulted in remitting an operating surplus totalling N450 billion.
The defaulting agencies are the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Nigeria Shippers Council (NSC), Nigeria Export Promotion Council (NEPC), National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Nigeria Postal Service (NPS), National Information Technology and Development Agency (NITDA) and Nigeria Television Authority (NTA).
Others are Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), National Pensions Commission (PenCom), Nigeria Bulk Electricity Trading Plc (NBET), Raw Material Research & Development Council (RMRDC) and Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA).
Also on the defaulters’ list are the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority (NEPZA), Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) and Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN).
Curiously, three agencies listed among the defaulters, in a press statement two weeks ago by the Ministry of Finance, were not included on the list of 17 released yesterday.
They are the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), National Agency for Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF).
The central bank, reacting, also stated it has always complied with the statutes requiring it to remit its operating surplus to the CRF.
A deputy governor who spoke to THISDAY on the phone last night said the finance ministry must have been mistaken including the CBN as one of such agencies that had failed to remit its operating surplus.
“For instance, in 2015, we reported an operating surplus of N108 billion, of which over N80 billion was paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund, being 80 per cent of the amount that the CBN reported as its operating surplus.
“So the Ministry of Finance must be mistaken, as we have always complied by remitting 80 per cent of our operating surplus to the CRF as required by law,” the deputy governor, who did not want to be named, informed THISDAY.
Adeosun said the 17 affected agencies had been issued notices to come up with proposals on how to repay the unremitted operating surpluses, adding that the agencies in question are to appear for a meeting on December 6 with the committee set up to recover the funds, which is headed by the Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris.
The Idris committee has been saddled with the task of recovering the outstanding N450 billion, as well as initiating bilateral discussions and undertaking impromptu visits on revenue agencies, going forward.
Adeosun observed that the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007 (FRA) was designed to provide guidelines and controls to elicit greater accountability and transparency in fiscal operations.
She, however, regretted that “actual compliance with the provisions of the Act has been poor resulting in revenue leakages as confirmed by our audit findings including the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Nigeria Shippers Council, Nigeria Export Promotion Council, National Health Insurance Scheme”.
The minister listed areas where the revenue agencies had breached the FRA provision as non–remittance and under-remittance of operating surpluses due to the CRF; operating without an approved budget; overstating of budgets and spending above budgeted amounts; under reporting of revenues; making payments without invoices and absence of payment receipts, and failure to retire cash advances.
Others are granting loans and grants to parent companies without prior approvals; poor book keeping; failure to reconcile accounts and existence of irreconcilable differences; lack of fixed asset registers and sale of assets to staff; fixed asset register not updated with all items purchased; and purchase of fixed assets directly from internally generated revenue; among others.
In an effort to plug leakages and enhance revenue from independent sources, the minister said the federal government decided to increase the number of government agencies required to comply with the strict provisions of the FRA, including remitting 80 per cent of their operating surpluses.
According to her, a circular on the inclusion of 92 additional corporations, agencies and government-owned companies to the schedule of the Act was issued on November 21, 2016.
She also disclosed that henceforth, all government agencies are to submit a budget to be approved by the National Assembly and to improve the quality of their budgeting processes.
A circular, she said, had already been issued requesting the agencies to submit for review and approval, estimates of revenues and expenses for the next three financial years, annual budgets (IPSAS-compliant), as well as projected operating surpluses.
Adeosun also stated that a review team had been set up to evaluate submitted estimates before the budget submission to the National Assembly.
She warned that agencies that fail to review and approve their budgets as advised would be restricted to payment of salaries until the budget is regularised.
According to her, the circular was issued on November 22 with agencies given seven days to comply, adding that “this circular is backed by an Executive Order of Mr. President”.
The minister also disclosed that a circular was issued on the approved template for the computation of operating surpluses.
Responding to questions, the minister said since the move to recover the unremitted operating surpluses commenced, some agencies had started making remittances to the CRF, adding that N640 million had been received from the NSC.
On what sanctions the government would mete out to agencies that are in breach of remittances of operating surpluses besides recovering the unremitted revenue, the minister stated that all the audit reports had been sent to parent ministries.
She added that cases that needed to be referred to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) would be channelled appropriately.
Adeosun also said some of the unremitted surpluses of the agencies might be part of the funds in the Treasury Single Account (TSA), adding that once they present their repayment proposals, a mutually suitable window would be conceded to them.