The newly appointed Chairman of the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) recently, after an inaugural meeting of the Commission addressed the press. He was a former Commissioner of Works and Housing in Ebonyi State before becoming Finance Minister of State and Chairman of the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC). He talks about the major issues the Commission would soon addressed. The Economic Confidential was there and presents here the excerpts of the session:
EC: What can you say about the Commission?
ANS: You know most of the members, including myself were appointed in December 2010 after passing the screening by the federal legislators at the National assembly, Abuja.
EC: How far have you gone since your resumption?
ANS: On assumption of office we immediately took stock and assessed not only the state of affairs of the Commission, but also familiarize yourselves with the Constitutional provisions establishing the Commission as well as our mandate and challenges.
EC: What are the major functions of the Commission?
ANS: The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and other enabling Laws empowers the commission to among other things: monitor the accruals to and disbursement of revenue from the Federation Account; review, from time to time, the revenue allocation formular and principles of operation to ensure conformity with changing realities, provided that any revenue formular which has been accepted by the Act of the National Assembly shall remain in force for a period of not less than five (5) years from the date of commencement of the Act; advise the Federal, State and Local Government on Fiscal Efficiency and methods by which their revenue can be increased and determine the remuneration appropriate to political Office Holders.
EC: But do you have an oversight functions?
ANS: It is noteworthy to state that in accordance with Decree 98 of 1993 which was an amendment to Decree 49 of 1989, now Act of the National Assembly, the Commission is a statutory member of the following Government Agencies: Federal Account Allocation Committee; Local Government Joint Account Allocation Committee; Joint Tax Board and The Commission on Ecological Fund.
EC: Apart from the commission’s membership of those bodies does it monitor other agencies?
ANS: Well, the aforementioned Act which I mentioned earlier also empowers the Commission to demand and obtain regular and relevant information, data or return from any Government Agency including the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation; the Nigerian Custom Service; Federal Inland Revenue Service; Central Bank of Nigeria and the Federal Ministry of Finance.
EC: How do you discharge your responsibilities?
ANS: In the discharge of the above functions and responsibilities, we are guided by the appropriate provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and all the relevant enabling Acts of the National Assembly.
EC: How do you see the assignment?
ANS: Our Assignment is very sensitive and challenging and has serious implications to national unity, progress, and socio-economic development of our great Country. As members of this Commission, we will ensure that we live above board and put the National interest first. We work as a team and take advantage of our varied background and experiences. We are not here solely to represent the interest of our States but to contribute towards building a virile economically stable fiscal regime for the socio-economic development of Nigeria.
EC: Can we have an idea on how the Commission will operate with federal commissioners from all the states of the federation?
ANS: To ensure efficient and effective coverage of our responsibilities, we shall operate on Committee Structures similar to that of the National Assembly. Indeed, policy issues shall be first presented at the Plenary Session and thereafter referred to the relevant Committee for further works before re-presentation to the Plenary.
EC: There are clamour for new revenue formula as well as other contentious issues, how do you intend to address them?
ANS: To kick start our operations, we shall fine-tune existing policies and strategies and evolve new ones aimed at ensuring a federal revenue system that will increase overall volume of the national financial resources available for distribution to the three-tiers of government. We shall be concerned more on how to increase the size of the ‘National Cake’ rather than dissipate all our energy on how to share a shrinking ‘Cake’.
EC: Do you seem to face any challenge now?
ANS: Permit me to state that one of the conditions for appointment to the Commission is that the person must be of ‘unquestionable integrity’; Furthermore, the level of support and confidence the Commission shall enjoy and the willingness to other Agencies to co-operate and collaborate with us shall be greatly influenced by our integrity. We shall ensure that in all circumstances, our integrity should not be compromised individually or collectively. It is obvious to observe that the Commission has a lot of challenges. We shall gradually and consistently tackle these challenges. Accordingly, we shall evaluate the institutional and human resources capacities at RMAFC, focusing particularly on repositioning the organization for daunting task of revenue mobilization, allocation, and fiscal efficiency.
EC: Since your assignment cut across all tiers and arms of government, how will the relationship be?
ANS: In our effort to collaborate with all Stakeholders, we shall reach out to all the three-tiers of Government, relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies of Government, and develop a good working relationship without compromising our mandate.
EC: What is going to be your guiding principles in all our operations?
ANS: The commission will deliver optimally on its mandate and provide timely reports and recommendations to the Government and other Stakeholders. We will use the most effective strategies to be used for maximum positive result. We will ensure we employ the appropriate ways and methods of creating and sustaining relationship with our major Stakeholders and earn the public confidence and trust from our constitutional roles.
EC: Nigerians are complaining about the pay parity between public office holders and core civil servant. The gap between their salaries is too wide, yet the go to the same markets. How do you hope to address this issue?
ANS: Well, I read about what we are going to deliberate on today in some publications. Actually this is our first meeting, and we really need to be briefed first, before we enter into issues that have a lot of implications. So I will say that we did not discuss issues of pay packages or jumbo salaries. But what I can assure you is that I have directed that the management provide me with a brief and once I get all the briefs, study them, we shall take necessary actions, take the issue holistically, and that is when I will be in a better position to tell you exactly what we will do, and how we will do it.
EC: What is the role of the RMAFC in terms of the National Budget and how does the commission intend to increase the ‘National Cake’ as mentioned in your address?
ANS: Part of the responsibility of the commission is to advise Federal, State and Local Governments on fiscal efficiency, this includes we must make input in budget preparation, this has always been the basic constitutional function of the commission and that has always been done. The ‘National Cake’ I referred to is our sources of revenue, presently, the revenues that are accruable to the Federation account basically come from Oil, Gas, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Nigerian Custom and the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR). We are going to expand these sources, we are going to look at other sources, in other words, we are going to very much concerned with diversification. We have to diversify our sources of revenue, and I am going to create a Diversification Committee, a standing committee on diversification to take care of this, so that we will have other sources that will accrue revenue to the Federation account.
EC: What are your plans to ensure that capital flight is reduced and how do you intend to plough the money back into the economy for proper revenue monitoring?
ANS: On capital flight, well we are guided by the constitution and the Acts of the National Assembly establishing the Commission. We are not directly responsible on taking capital flights. The basic thing that we will do is one; to ensure that all revenue accruable to the Federation account is accounted for, in other words, we should ensure that all possible leakages are closed. We should also ensure that, right from the point of collection; all revenues are completely collected and accounted for, up to the point of distribution to the three-tier of Government. So, we will have to stop the leakages and expand sources of revenue.
EC: Do you have plans for a new revenue sharing formula because, the one we are currently using was put in place by the military?
ANS: This is one of the major assignments we intend to carry out; I intend to establish a standing committee on new revenue sharing formula immediately, at least when we do this, we will be able to make recommendations to Mr. President for onward transmission to the National Assembly for their consideration. We quite agree that the formula we are currently using has been quite old, it came from the military regime, so it time for us to really review the sharing formula and come up with a new one which will be acceptable and fair to all Nigerians.
Source: Economic Confidential magazine