Deji Elumoye and Chuks Okocha in Abuja
The Senate Thursday chided the Comptroller-General of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Colonel Hameed Ali (rtd), for failing to make available the agency’s audited accounts since 2015.
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Accounts, Senator Matthew Urhogide, expressed concern that the comptroller-general did not deem it fit to forward the agency’s audited accounts to the committee in the past five years.
The senator, who spoke when the comptroller-general appeared before the committee after failing to honour two earlier invitations, noted that the action of the omptroller-general was against the anti- corruption mantra of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration.
His words: “We are concerned that for over five years, your agency and other Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) haven’t produced their audited accounts. How can we say we are fighting corruption under this situation?
“The Customs Act says you must send in your audited accounts, six months into another financial year. We must clear the outstanding unaudited accounts. What the President does with this will tell us how we are fighting corruption. A lot of us are very concerned and this isn’t the way to go. So many weighty allegations against the customs and for three days we haven’t seen you. The query given to you by the Auditor General of the Federation in 2015 is there and you are yet to vacate them, almost five years after.”
In his response, Ali claimed that “these findings are strange to me as our mode of payment and remittances are purely automated.”
The comptroller-general also disagreed with the Accountant- General of the Federation (AGF), Ahmed Idris, over the differentials of N28 billion allegedly under remitted into the Federation Account in 2015.
The Auditor-General of the Federation, Anthony Ayine, had in his Financial Statement for 2015 asked the Accountant General to explain the differentials in the amount remitted by the NCS and the figures contained in his own records.
The audited report showed that the customs remitted N185 billion as against the sum of N157 billion in the Chief Accountant’s document.
The Accountant General who was represented yesterday by a Director in his office, Feyintola Olusegun, had earlier referred the auditor-general and the senate panel to the NCS for clarification.
The customs boss completely absolved his agency of any wrongdoing saying the query in question was strange to the service because the mode of customs collections is purely automated. “For anybody to be pointing at us; then there is a problem,” he said.
He, however, admitted that his agency defaulted in 2015 on the remittance of pension due to insufficient funds to meet the obligation.
The accountant-general made what appeared as a U-turn with a new explanation that the N28 billion was for ECOWAS stabilisation fund for 2015.
His latest explanation did not go down well with the committee as it was not reflected in the earlier written submission to the panel. Moreover, there was no documented evidence to back up the claim.