Banks cite presidential approval as lawmakers demand proof, CBN unaware
James Emejo in Abuja
The Chairman of the House of Representatives Ad-hoc Committee on Treasury Single Account (TSA), Hon. Abubakar Nuhu, on Tuesday said the committee had discovered that banks are still holding on to public funds amounting to about N50 billion outside the TSA in violation of a circular from the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF) which directed that all public funds domiciled in banks be transferred to respective accounts with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
But in defence, the banks reportedly cited an approval from President Muhammadu Buhari which allowed them to still hold on to the accounts.
Speaking at the continuation of the public hearing ordered by a resolution of the lower House on the implementation of the TSA, Nuhu however, demanded evidence with regards to the approval by the president that affected accounts be retained by the financial institutions.
This is as the CBN Director, Banking & Payments, Mr. Dipo Fatokun, who appeared before the committee, said though some accounts including the that of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC)/Joint Venture Accounts had approvals to be operated outside TSA, he was not aware of any such approval from the president allowing for the accounts to be operated separate from the TSA.
Asked if the CBN was aware that such accounts were still being run outside the TSA, the CBN Director said: â€œThe only approval that I am aware of is that of NNPC/JV; I saw that approval from the presidency…apart from that approval, thereâ€™s no other presidential approval that Iâ€™m aware of.â€
He added that some of the reasons adduced by banks for retaining some accounts include excuses that some accounts are under court processes while others including those of the judiciary and the National Assembly are expressly exempted from the TSA for some reasons.
Also, yesterday, the ad hoc committee directed the apex bank to conclude and submit its reconciliation of TSA accounts for the last two years by the end of December.
It further directed that the apex bank allow the Auditor General for the Federation (AuGF), who had bitterly complained about limitations in accessing the TSA, unfettered access to the central accounts with the CBN.
But on the contrary, Fatokun suggested that the AuGF should rather access the TSA through the office of the Accountant General of the Federation.
Also, as a fallout of yesterdayâ€™s meeting which could not really progress, the committee summoned chief executives of banks and other government institutions to appear before it for the last time next Wednesday or risk the consequences.
The chairman noted that their continued absence appeared to constitute a stumbling block to ongoing investigations on alleged infractions in the implementation of the TSA.
He said: â€œI wish to state with dismay that none of the chief executives of invited organisations seemed to be present.
â€œIf people donâ€™t respect our invitation, we will not hesitate to use other means and the constitutional powers that we have to compel people to appear before this committee.â€
He said: â€œWe are not against any operation of any account outside TSA provided the relevant approval is being given or the approval is there in place.
â€œSo, for the banks that are here, they should take note of this. Banks chief executive will have to appear before us with evidence as regards the approval from Mr. President to operate accounts outside the TSA.â€
Continuing, Nuhu said: â€œAs you know, the committee has had series of interactions with stakeholders which led to so many discoveries and the level of non compliance to the TSA policy.
â€œItâ€™s important to note that the committee is not in anyway out to witch-hunt any person or organisation, rather, it intends to ensure things are done in line with approved policies.
â€œThe committee in its quest to complete itâ€™s assignment and produce itâ€™s report to the House and Nigerians has been constrained by various stakeholders submitting information demanded.
â€œIn spite of concessions given to stakeholders before, obviously, good faith is not being shown to the committee.
â€œItâ€™s an appalling situation when an organisation continues to suppress government revenue by not disclosing the accounts here.â€
According to him, â€œThe committee then has to waste time and resort to other sources, finding out about these accounts through other means.
â€œGoing forward, organisations will be under oath and will swear to the accuracy of all documents submitted to the committee.
â€œAny further transgression will be taken as deliberate revenue suppression.â€
The chairman further reiterated the determination of the ad hoc committee to ensure that SystemsSpecs, the company which provides the solutions for the operation of the TSA is paid huge amounts owed it by government.
He said despite testimonies by relevant stakeholders about the remarkable delivery of the company, it is still being owed.
He said: â€œBut surprisingly, reports submitted to the committee has shown that this firm is being owed huge sums of money.â€