The Federal Government has ordered all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to prepare an inventory of all fixed assets held as at 31st December 2016 to facilitate physical verification of all assets owned by the MDAs by its project team. As a matter of fact, Federal Government has launched an Asset Tracking and Management Project (ATM Project), through which, for the first time, the government would be able to locate, identify, assess and evaluate all its moveable and immoveable assets, the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, has announced. Similarly, a Central Asset Register would be created and domiciled in the Federal Ministry of Finance for recording the actual quantity, value, condition and location of all the capital assets belonging to the Federal Government.
This may be a way to block the increasing leakages via revenue generation agencies over the years which have assumed an alarming dimension, thus requiring the attention of all relevant agencies of the government to find a workable solution to stem the ugly trend. The quest for effective blockage of revenue leakages has become more pronounced with the oil slump and the increasing need for the government to deliver to provide social and economic infrastructure for accelerated development.
Few months ago, the Fiscal Responsibility Commission (FRC) made a damning revelation of how Ministries, Departments and Agencies defrauded Nigeria of about N1 trillion through producing two different accounting statements in order to manipulate their operating surplus and losses. In the last seven years, according to the commission’s Acting Chairman, Mr. Victor Muruako, over N1trn had been lost by the government due to what he termed “non-remittance of operating surpluses alone by scheduled corporations and other agencies”. A breakdown of the figure showed that N9.738 trillion came from oil revenue while non-oil sector accounted for N4.647 trillion. About N1.507 trillion was raised as Consolidated Fund, he said.
The Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2007 stipulates that any government agency that generates revenue must remit 80 percent of its operating surplus to the Consolidated Revenue Fund account.
Sections 21 and 22 of the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007specifically states that government corporations and agencies shall, not later than six months from the commencement of the Act and every three financial years thereafter and not later than the end of the second quarter of every year, cause to be prepared and submitted to the Finance Minister their schedule estimates of revenue and expenditure for the next three financial years.
It said each of the bodies referred to in subsection (1) of this section should submit to the Finance Minister not later than the end of August in each financial year an annual budget derived from the estimates submitted in pursuance of subsection (1) of this section; and projected operating surplus, which should be prepared in line with acceptable accounting practices.
Late last year, the federal government reportedly sought the prosecution of 33 of its agencies over non-remittance of N450 billion revenue generated between 2010 and 2015. The recovery committee, headed by the Accountant-General of the Federation set up to recover the money from the agencies was able to recover some sizeable chunk of money from agencies and that N640 million had been received from the Nigeria Shippers Council, (NSC).
According to the Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, “the total independent revenue generated between January and October 2016 was N272.03 billion but there is a projected increase to N811.03 billion as we recover amounts owed’’. The affected agencies include the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM), Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), West African Examination Council (WAEC), Joint Administrations and Matriculation Board (JAMB), and National Hospital, Abuja.
Also affected are Industrial Training Fund (ITF), National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Nigeria Television Authority (NTA), Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN), National Teachers Institute (NTI), University of Lagos Teaching Hospital (LUTH), University College Hospital, Ibadan (UCH), National Orthopaedic Hospital, Igbobi, Lagos; University of Lagos (UNILAG), University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), Ahmadu Bello Teaching Hospital (ABTH), National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), National Centre for Women Development (NCWD), Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria (ABU), Nigeria Shipper’s Council (NSC), University of Benin (UNIBEN), University of Ilorin (UNILORIN), and University of Ibadan (UI).
It can be recalled that after over 16 months into the present administration, high revenue-earning Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the Federal Government were yet to make public the details of their earnings, expenditures and contributions to the national till to promote transparency and accountability.
The days of violating this Act by MDAs and public service may be coming to an end as the Federal Government has warned that it would deal with heads of agencies that divert revenues instead of paying same to the Central Bank of Nigeria. As a matter of fact, Accountant-General of the Federation (AGF), Ahmed Idris, reiterated that the days internal auditors in Federal Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) get away with complicity in fraud and other financial malfeasance perpetrated in their agencies are now over, as government is prepared to make them answer for their misdeeds while serving or even after retirement. He also identified internal auditors as the prime culprits in the large scale corruption in Nigeria’s public service. Internal auditors are responsible for ensuring that corporate processes and associated controls are functioning as intended, while also improving efficiency to save money for establishments through effective resource allocation. As a result, auditors are regarded as being complicit to corruption in an organization; as such activities cannot thrive if they are dedicated to their duty.
According to the AGF, “We do pre-audit before payments are made to beneficiaries. If internal auditors do their jobs very well, we won’t have the large scale financial mismanagement cases we have in public life in the country today. Let me remind you that any auditor can be held responsible if he failed to do what he is supposed to do and he will answer for his action even in retirement. “This is so because the internal audit function is very key to the good governance reforms of the Federal Government as without internal audit function nothing would go out. That is why our commitment to instituting forensic auditing is not just strong but the implementation is apt and timely,” he emphasized.
The AGF expressed delight over the collaboration with the Association of Forensic and Investigative Auditors in Nigeria (AFIA), the body which is transferring the forensic auditing skills to the internal auditors in the MDAs, saying this will reduce to the barest minimum incidences of graft in public life.