There Is High Level Of Corruption On Revenue Generating Agencies – Minister
Finance Minister, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, revealed yesterday that government’s efforts at realising money from revenue-generating agencies to meet expectations of Nigerians were being hampered by “high level corruption” in some agencies, especially the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) which she described as “cohesive croocks bard to break”
The minister also said the government is paying N2 trillion to pay salaries and pensions while debt servicing takes N1.4 trillion, all from the 2016 budget, a situation which made it impossible to reduce the 2017 budget.
Mrs. Adeosun spoke when she hosted the Senate Committee on Finance led by its Chairman, John Enoh at the ministry’s headquarters in Abuja, yesterday.
On how revenue generating agencies are frustrating the government, she noted: “non-remittances by the revenue generating agencies is a big issue. We have done a lot of work on it. We are auditing about 31 of the agencies and what we found is very shocking, it’s very very shocking. That’s the only way to describe it.
“So, what we have done is that we have drafted a template with the Accountant-General and the Fiscal Responsibility Commission, we are working together on allowable expenses for agencies.
“For example, is it acceptable for an agency to say, ‘I got N40 billion on behalf of a ministry?’ We believe that it should come through appropriation, you cannot say that you collect money on behalf of your parent ministry. That is how they are circumventing appropriation and I think that really has to be stopped.
“So, there are so many loopholes which honestly, we we can plug them, I think we will have a lot more money to work. And the friction between the civil service men and other agencies could reduce because honestly, there’s a lot of abuse.”
On how the National Assembly can help, Mrs. Adeosun said: “We will be sending that circular out to try an remedy it and when their accounts come, let them go an face the assembly when assembly would ask ‘why did you and your board members spent N50 million each in a years, why does somebody who was taught to go for training in Canada, go through about five countries before arriving in Canada and charge the agencies.
It’s wrong but we saw a lot of that. So we believe this is an opportunity to open up on these things and we are looking forward to work very closely with you on these things.”
The minister also solicited for urgent intervention of the National Assembly in curbing the loopholes and excessive leakage, not only in the revenue sourcing agencies, but also in all other agencies, saying they were stinking of corruption.
She told the Senate committee that the Federal Government would sustain its over N6 trillion national budget in the 2017 appropriation bill, expected to be submitted by President Muhammadu Buhari, after the consideration and subsequent approval of the pending 2017—2019 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and the Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP), by the National Assembly.
She insisted that the country would be gambling with the figure for now as it cannot go below it anymore high expectations from Nigerians.
“About the size of the budget, the point I would add is this. Salaries on their own are between N1.8 trillion and N1.9 trillion and by the time you add the judiciary, the National Assembly, pension and so on and so forth, you are at two trillion naira. Add debt service which is about N1.4 trillion. So, if you want to bring down the size of the budget, you will not be able to do very many capital projects.
On job creation, she noted: “Even when the economy was growing, when the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was eight and nine, we had a massive unemployment problem especially our graduates. I’m sure most of us know that graduates stayed for up to 10 years without job and the only sector that was really creating jobs was government and government now, has now reached its limit, I don’t think government can reasonably employ any more people so we have to develop our private sector and to do that, we need infrastructure.
“So, this government is really set about driving infrastructure and that is what we have been trying to do. Everything we have been trying to do, whether it’s been chasing ghost workers, whether it’s efficiency, it all end on one thing-creating that head road so that we can invest in infrastructures.
“We believe that many people in Nigeria, whether contractors, whether…., are owed something by the Federal Government and we have to sit down and sort it out. The same problem with the states, they too, are claiming that they are owed, the reason they can’t pay is that they are owed by the Federal Government. So, we need to have a discussion, deal with the problem so that the economy can move forward.
“There’s good news on the horizon in the sense that the prediction that the oil price will be as low as $20 proved to be false alarm and the prediction now is that the oil price will stabilize between $50 and $60, so what Nigeria now has to do is to balance her books so that if it is $50, even if it is $40, we will be able to balance.
On the crisis in Niger Delta as it affects the performance of the 2016 budget, Mrs Adeosun explained: “On the performance of the budget generally, I would want to say that we have very high expectations. But the crisis in the Niger Delta has really hit us very hard, very hard and we cannot overstate it, very very hard. And any month where we don’t hit that revenue target, of course, that means we are borrowing to pay salaries which now is even worsening our problems because it means we cannot now do those capital projects. So there’s a challenge.”