AdeosunFederal Government will prosecute public officials, especially heads of agencies that divert revenues instead of paying them to the Central Bank of Nigeria.

Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun made the disclosure on Wednesday after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting in state House, Abuja.

The minister disclosed that the practice of  collecting revenues in the United States Dollars and remitting same into government coffers in Naira allegedly being perpetuated by most heads of agencies would no longer be tolerated.

According to her, the Muhammadu Buhari government has enlisted the services of two reputable international audit firms- KPMG and Price Water House Coopers (PWC) to carry out a forensic audit of its revenue-generating agencies as part of the ongoing reforms to clean up the system.

The agencies targeted by the ongoing audit, according to her, includes the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).

Others are the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC), Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), and the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Company (NDIC), among others.

“The reason why we’re having the process is that in the past nobody was punished. So, some people have been spending as they please. So, we’ve to look at how you’ve been spending,” the minister explained.

“We have done a comprehensive audit of all the agencies that actually collect money in foreign currency and remit in naira. The requirement is that such monies should go to the CBN which should exchange the money into Naira…we’re now doing an audit to identify other agencies, but what we’ve identified is that the agency concerned was (NIMASA).

“But we discovered that there are other agencies we have not identified that also collect funds in foreign currencies, including our foreign missions. So, we’re doing a full audit of all those accounts and to ensure that all those revenues now are converted in accordance with the extant procedures and guidelines.”

The minister explained further: “Under FRA, these boards and corporations who generate our revenue are supposed to generate an operating surplus, 80% of which is to be credited to the Consolidated Revenue Fund. But we’ve discovered that many agencies have never credited anything and never generated any operating surplus including some whose salaries and overhead capital is paid by the federal government.

“We also discussed that in some cases, because some agencies have a track record and history of making sure that every naira they earned is spent, that we’ll 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’ll be sending in auditors to some agencies where we believe everything that their cost is simply excessive and not in keeping with our expectations. The expected outcome of this is that the internally generated revenue which the new budget is banking on will actually become a reality. So, that was the principal discussion and everybody in the cabinet endorsed the initiative’’.

According to the minister, the era of profligate spending by revenue generating agencies is over: “We’re going to make every naira count and in order to make every naira count, we’ve to know how much is coming in and control how it goes out.
“All the ministers concerned agreed that enough is enough, and they even identified boards and agencies under them where they know that revenue is being diverted. So, the key message is that change has now come to those agencies, boards and corporations who had been hitherto operating without any control”, she added.

“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 their budget must be subject to approval and they must operate within that budget so that the surplus meant to come to the federal government can be seen to be used as appropriate,’’.

Adeosun reiterated the need for public officials to be accountable: “For clarification, let me explain that in non-oil economies, these are revenues of government. It was because we had oil in the past that nobody has ever really looked at MDAs, NCC, some many agencies so many boards of government in their hundreds.

“We had issued a circular in December requesting that they send us their budget and what we discussed (at the FEC meeting) was the responsibility of the ministers to ensure that whether those agencies have boards or not, those budgets are prepared.

“The Ministry of Finance is going to sit down with the supervising ministers and the boards concerned where necessary to go through their budgets and make sure that they’re reasonable, that the costs are not inflated”, she said.

By Olisemeka Obeche

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