The Federal Government is set to recover about N450 billion operating surpluses that were not returned by 33 agencies from 2010 to 2015. The Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, made the announcement on Thursday in Abuja at a news conference. She said that an audit had been carried out on the agencies in compliance with the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA), 2007.
Kemi Adeosun The minister that a recovery committee headed by the Accountant General of the Federation had been set up to recover the money from the agencies. Adeosun noted, however, that some of the agencies had started returning various sums, saying that N640 million had been received from the Nigeria Shippers Council. “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.’’
She said that the audit revealed that there was a lot of non-remittances and under-remittances of operating surpluses and that some agencies were operating without an approved budget. The minister added that there was overstating of budget and spending above budgeted amount, failure to reconcile accounts and existence of irreconcilable differences. “The audit also showed that there was under-reporting of revenues, failure to submit audited financial statements, payroll fraud and exaggeration of payroll costs, over-payment of staff salaries and abuse of personnel grants.’’
She said that while there was unapproved monetisation of medical and other allowances, there was also non-compliance with the PPA and failure to convert to IPSAS accounting. IPSAS stands for International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) According to her, some of the agencies affected are the Nigerian Communications Commission, Nigerian Ports Authority and Corporate Affairs Commission. Others are the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, Nigerian Export-Import Bank, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria and National Open University of Nigeria. Also affected are the Nigerian Railway Corporation, West African Examination Council, Joint Administrations and Matriculation Board and the National Hospital, Abuja among others. Adeosun said that some of the audit reports had been sent to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
“The financial regulations are very clear, where audit reports have indicted some of the officers, some of these audit reports are going to the EFCC. “Some of the audit findings were so serious that the decision was taken that some of those particular reports must go to the EFCC. “Remember that we are not a prosecuting agency, ours is to investigate and then we hand it over to the relevant agencies.’’ The minister said that the agencies that defaulted had been asked to come up with their repayment proposals to see how they could be made to repay the money.
“We know that in some cases that money would have already been spent so they will now give us a proposal of how they are going to repay but the money has to be paid. “We are also looking at their Treasury Single Account (TSA) to understand how much money they actually have because in some cases these surpluses are in their accounts. “Our plan is not to grind to a halt the activities of any agency but to institute fiscal discipline in all the agencies,’’ the minister stated.
Adeosun also said that a circular was issued on Nov. 22, requesting submission of estimates of revenues and expenses for the next three financial years. Other documents that were requested are the annual budget which must be IPSAS compliant and projected operating surpluses for review and approval. According to her, a review team has also been set up to evaluate submitted estimates before budget submission to the National Assembly.
She said that failure to comply with the provision of the FRA to review and approve their budgets as advised would be restricted to payment of salaries only until the budget was regularised. “We have the National Assembly’s support that if an agency does not have its budget approved; it really has no business spending. “It is wrong for an agency to operate without a budget. It is public money and that means that the agency can do literally anything it wants and that is wrong. “It is for those agencies who know that they do not want to be in the situation where they can only pay salaries to do the right thing, everybody knows the rule.’’
She said further that a circular on the inclusion of 92 additional corporations, agencies and government owned companies to the schedule of the Act had also been issued. According to the minister, the exercise is an ongoing process and all agencies will eventually be audited.