FG to audit Customs, NIMASA, NPA NNPC, others

The Federal Government has ordered the audit of all revenue-generating agencies in the country in order to ensure that all funds collected are remitted into its coffer.

The affected agencies include the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), the Nigeria Customs Service, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and others.

Finance Minister, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, who briefed State House correspondents after the first Federal Executive Council (FEC)’s meeting in the year chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari, also said that those agencies had been mandated to present their budgets for approval.

The minister also denied reports that the 2016 budget presented to the National Assembly by the president had been discreetly withdrawn for adjustment following public outcries against some sub heads considered bogus.

Adeosun, who addressed newsmen alongside her Information and National Orientation counterpart, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said the audit was meant to plug all loopholes in order to free funds for the implementation of the budget when passed.

She said: “The principal discussion in our meeting today was the initiative by this administration to plug revenue leakages in our Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) that generate revenue. The presentation to FEC was to remind ministers who supervise these revenue-generating boards of their responsibilities under the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA).

“Let me remind you that under FRA, these boards and corporations who generate poor revenue are supposed to generate and operating surplus , 80 percent of which is to be credited to the Consolidated Revenue Fund, but we have discovered that many agencies have never credited anything and never generated any operating surplus including some whose salaries, overheads, capital is paid by the federal government.

“In addition to that, they generate revenue which they spend without any form of control. So one of the big initiatives and changes of this administration is to bring all those agencies into line; to insist that they must submit a budget, that that budget must be subject to approval and they must operate within that budget so that the surplus that is meant to come to the federal government can be seen to be used as appropriate.

“So for clarification, let me just explain that in economies that are non-oil economies, these are the revenues of government. It was because we had oil in the past, nobody has ever really looked at MDAs, so many agencies, so many boards of government and they are many, in fact they are in their hundreds.”

Reacting to the directive given to those agencies, including the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency and several others to submit their budgets for approval, she said “We had issued a circular in December requesting that they send us their budgets and what we discussed today was the responsibility of the ministers to ensure that whether those agencies have boards or not, those budgets are prepared that the Ministry of Finance is going to sit down with the supervising ministers and with the boards concerned, where necessary, to go through their budgets and make sure that they are reasonable, that the costs are not inflated.”

She said FEC also noted that some agencies had a track record and history of making sure that every Naira they earned was spent and to stop that, she said: “We will go in and audit agencies under Section 107 (8) of the Financial Regulations. The Accountant-General, who is under the Ministry of Finance has the powers to go in and make inquiries about how public money is spent. So, we will be sending in auditors to some agencies where we believe that their cost is simply excessive and not in keeping with our expectations.”

According to her, the expected outcome of this is that internally generated revenue (IGR), which the new budget is banking on, will actually become a reality.”

On the alleged withdrawal of the budget proposal, “You know the budget is presented to the National Assembly and then there is what we call an interactive budget approval process and you know the agencies will still go and defend their budget at the NASS. So, ordinarily in budget processes, anywhere in the world, there can be amendments to the budgets arising from that interactive process, which is normal.

“But let me make it very clear. The budget is not being withdrawn or replaced. The budget has been presented and will go through normal process whereby MDAs defend their budgets. It is possible in the process of that, because as you know the legislature is not a rubber stamp, their job is to scrutinize the budget and to approve that budget. So there may be some changes that occur as a result of that interactive process, but that process is normal everywhere in the world where a budget is presented. So I think it is important to make that clarification,” she said.

The minister also dismissed the insinuation that the budget could be padded by the lawmakers insisting that such was impossible considering the parlous financial position of the country.

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