The Nigerian government says it has hired the services of some international audit firms, including Ernst & Young and PriceWaterhouse Coopers, to reconcile and recover public funds illegally withheld by banks.
The Director (Funds), Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, OAGF, Hamza Adeyemi, disclosed this in Abuja.
He said the resort to hiring the audit firms followed the continued refusal of the affected banks to return government funds in their possession despite the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN sanctions by directly debiting the accounts of the banks.
Since 2004, the director said the federal government lost over N70 billion funds in the possession of various commercial banks.
“Banks have thrown professionalism to the winds,” Mr. Adeyemi lamented.
“Some banks are still holding on to funds of Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs, and have refused to transfer them to the Treasury Single Account, TSA, despite government directives.”
Mr. Adeyemi said the accounting/auditing firms, including Ernst & Young, PWC and others, were being asked to conduct a “very comprehensive audit” of the banks to recover funds still with them.
He accused banks of not adhering to presidential directive to return public funds in their possession to the TSA domiciled in the CBN.
Mr. Adeyemi said some few weeks ago that more monies were recovered from some banks who were still holding on to government funds.
He said government was monitoring closely to ensure the recovered monies were paid into the federation’s coffers, while a comprehensive reconciliation was currently ongoing.
On about N300 billion idle funds under the TSA, the director said there was a special CBN available window to invest in Treasury Bills, to yield interest.
Such interest would go back to the government TSA.
On the success of the TSA, Mr. Adeyemi said it was because of the policy that the government was, for the first time in the country’s history, able to disburse about N1.2 trillion for capital projects in the 2016 fiscal year.
“In the past, some of the monies were fixed in the banks, or just left to idle away in banks and not used for what they are meant for,” he said.
With the introduction of TSA, he said, the exact amount in the consolidated cash position of the federal government could now be easily accessed by the OAGF, making it possible for government to know how much it has for spending.
Earlier, the Director Inspectorate Department of the OAGF, Mohammed Usman, accused the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, of withholding unspent cash at the end of the financial year.
Mr. Usman said INEC had always said it was empowered to retain funds whenever the OAGF requests for clarification from the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, as part of public accounts procedure to return left over cash to the chest.
“Since 2015, the issue is now a subject with the public accounts committee of the National Assembly,” Mr. Usman said
Also, he disclosed that all MDAs have at various times neglected to keep proper inventory of government asset.
“All MDAs are not up to date with the asset register. It has become more imperative now given the new accounting techniques adopted by the federal government to keep an accurate assets register,” Mr. Usman said.
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