The Office of the Accountant General of the Federation has no means of monitoring in real-time the revenues accruing to the country through the Treasury Single Account (TSA), the accountant general said Thursday.
The TSA is a centralised bank account used by government agencies to receive revenues. Previously, ministries, departments and agencies operated thousands of accounts for different purposes, making it difficult to track government funds.
The government says the TSA has helped reduce fraud and instances of officials stealing public funds, but critics say it has not fully addressed the problem of illegal diversion of revenues. In 2018, the government said the implementation of a TSA saved N24 billion monthly.
At a meeting with the Senate Committee on Finance, the Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, said despite advancement in technology, his office had no way of knowing what came into the account in real-time.
Mr Idris appeared before the panel to defend the OAGF’s 2020 budget performance as well as 2021 budget proposals. In the 2021 budget proposal he submitted, the agency proposed N3.9 billion for personnel cost, N483 million for capital expenditure, and N752 million for overhead cost.
He was asked if his office had a software application that monitors the revenue that comes into the coffers of the government on a real-time basis. Mr Idris responded in the negative.
He said his office, instead, directly deducts revenue from accounts of about 60 agencies — an act the Senate committee described as illegal.
“We don’t have any,” he said. “The OAGF is already operating a mechanism through which on a monthly or quarterly basis, as the case may be, will make a direct deduction on revenue accounts of revenue-generating agencies through their relevant TSA accounts.
“All the revenue accounts of agencies of the government who are on TSA, are ‘visible’ to our office…”
“Is that the law?” the chairman of the Senate committee, Adeola Olamilekan, interrupted. “If it is not, why are you doing so?”
“We do so because it is already an established fact that these revenue-generating agencies are not remitting as expected and it has become an issue,” was the AGF’s response.
He said the fiscal responsibility act was the basis for which they make the deductions.
”These agencies do not remit as prescribed by the Act. So we feel, we should be deducting instantly, 25 per cent of whatever they make monthly,” he explained.
The chairman of the panel stressed the need for an amendment to the Act “because taking revenues from these agencies because you have access to it (them) is illegal.”
“We need to come up with this amendment in the Act. As we are bringing the finance bill, let this particular issue be part of it so that we can agree and pass it into law.
“If there is a need for us to amend the existing laws to allow you to do this, we will not hesitate to do that. We can’t be breaking the law. So that it will be in conformity with the law of the land.
“We have over 300 revenue generating agencies of the government. You cannot be using divide and rule to take revenues from 60 GOEs and leave out over 240 others. That is not tenable. It should cover everybody,” he said.
The panel also asked the AGF to propose new payment methods for the country.
This was after he disclosed that his office has only two payment platforms – Remita for revenue, and Gimfis for payment.
The AGF was, thereafter, asked to come up with a memo that will be presented to the executive, on why the budgetary allocation for his office is not enough.
He was also asked to propose amendments to the Fiscal Responsibility Act and the Finance Bill that will be sent to the National Assembly.
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