Thursday, 12 November 2015

Treasury Single Account: Senate orders probe over claim Collection Agent gets N25billion

Treasury Single Account
The Senate wednesday said it had uncovered the rot in the recently concluded transfers of the federal government’s funds to the treasury single account (TSA) domiciled with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

Consequently, the chamber ordered its committees to immediately begin the probe of the alleged abuse of the transfers.

According to the parliament, the transaction was contracted to an e-collection agent, REMITA, which collected 1 per cent of the entire N2.5 trillion moved to the TSA.

This 1 per cent commission, the Senate added, translated to a whopping N25 billion earned by REMITA from the transfers in gross violation of Section 162(1) of the 1999 Constitution.

It also added that the N25 billion paid to the company was not all that had so far been paid to REMITA, disclosing that payments to the company has remained a continuous process.
Section 162(1) of the constitution provides that “the federation shall maintain a special account to be called the federation account into which all revenues collected by the government of the federation except the proceeds from the personal income tax of the personnel of the Armed Forces of the Federation, the Nigeria Police Force, the ministry or department of government charged with foreign affairs and the residents of the FCT, Abuja”.
The Senate held that going by this provision, all revenues accruable to the federal government ought to be paid directly to the TSA as the case may be and not shared with anybody.

The Senate mandated its joint Committee on Finance, Banking and Other Financial Institutions and Public Accounts to carry out a holistic investigation into the transfers and report its findings within four weeks.

The upper parliamentary chamber also asked the Ministry of Finance and the CBN to forthwith suspend payments to the consulting firm, REMITA, until the outcome of the investigation is made public.

The chamber which however commended President Muhammadu Buhari for the enforcement of transfers to the TSA, added that the essence of the initiative was to prevent keeping government revenues or their spread in various accounts outside the CBN.

The mover of the motion, Senator Dino Melaye (Kogi West), said he was aware that by the policy directive, all agencies generating revenues for the government such as the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and Bureau of Public Entreprises (BPE), among others, were to pay all revenues they generated to the consolidated revenue fund.
He added: “The Senate observes that in the course of the operations of the TSA, the federal government on the 15th of September, 2015 mopped up the sum of N2.5 trillion through its e-collection agent called REMITA which charges 1 per cent of all monies passing through it, the implication of which 1 per cent of the N2.5 trillion mopped up on 15th September, 2015 alone amounted to N25 billion largesse to REMITA for doing nothing.”
Melaye further added that the appointment of REMITA as operations agent for the TSA was illegal because it contravened the provision of Section 162(1) of the constitution.
Furthermore, Melaye said given the constitutional provision, “the CBN is the sole institution that is mandated to collect and disburse monies on behalf of the federal government and where it has no branch, it may appoint another bank as agent to perform the function of collections and disbursement of revenue on behalf of the government of the federation, so using REMITA which is not a registered bank completely offends the CBN Act”.
He also described the development as a violation of BOFIA Act of 2007 which according to him, provides that no person(s) shall carry out any banking business in Nigeria unless the company is incorporated in Nigeria and holds a valid licence under the Act.

Melaye further argued that anyone who transacts business without a valid licence as stipulated by the Act is guilty of an offence and upon conviction liable to 10 years imprisonment or a fine of N2 million or both.
He added: “The activities of REMITA is a gross violation of the BOFIA Act and another attempt at ripping Nigerians of task payers’ money that would have been channelled to other sectors of the national economy.”
The motion generated a heated debate in the chamber as senators condemned the development and demanded its thorough probe.
In his contribution, Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, described it as sabotage and advocated the need to compel the culprits to refund the money. “I do not believe that this could happen under this government. However, if it is true, the people involved are saboteurs and must be compelled to return the money and face the wrath of the law,” he said.
Ndume, who also said he had asked the CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, about the scam, told his colleagues that Emefiele denied knowledge of it.

While supporting the motion, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (Abia South) sarcastically mocked the All Progressives Congress’ (APC) claim of change.
“Is this the change we are looking for? I will not ask the question. Somebody made the decision. Who gave the order? Somebody then must be made responsible. In matters like this, we must not be partisan. I fully support the motion. It is beyond the party,” he said.

Credit: ThisDay

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