Analysts, stakeholders endorse Buhari’s new moves to curb leakages in revenue agencies

By Nkiru Emeka-Nwankpa on December 4, 2018

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SGF, MR. BOSS MUSTAPHA

Civil society groups, analysts and stakeholders promoting good governance and accountability in government business have endorsed Federal Government’s new directives to curb leakages and profligacy in over fifty revenue agencies henceforth in line with President Muhammadu Buhari’s fight against corruption. 

The new drive, according to a cross-section of analysts and stakeholders, is another major offensive against corruption in official businesses. They spoke in a recent survey conducted by SOUNDBITE NEWS meant to seek public reactions to the new directives. 

A circular dated October 16, 2018 which was signed and issued to respective organs and arms of government by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha announced the measures, saying they were designed to plug revenue leakages, eliminate waste and increase efficiency in the affected enterprises especially in the light of questions hanging over the government’s anti-corruption stance.

Top on the list of government’s enterprises named in the new reforms regime are the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), National Communications Commission (NCC), Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), Nigerian Maritime Administration and Management Agency (NIMASA), Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), Nigerian Immigration Service, Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), etc. 

According to the SGF, the new business regime carries a reward system for compliant Federal Government’s companies officially known as Government-Owned Enterprises (GOEs). To further incentivize operations in the enterprises, performance contracts of Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) and other top management staff of the companies will henceforth be determined by proven record of competence and capacity to deliver based on achieved set targets and key performance indicators.

The circular further stated that appropriate legislative reviews will be carried out soon to accommodate the new measures just as it re-categorized the companies into self-funded, partially-funded or fully-funded in line with world best practices to optimize operations, make profit and increase their contributions to the federal budget.

‘’Government has noted also that most GOEs remit less operating surpluses to the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) than is required by law and/or financial regulations, thereby imposing avoidable restrictions on government’s ability to implement its development agenda’’, the SGF stated in the circular which this newspaper gathered is still being given wide circulation across the federal service establishment with special notice to anti-graft agencies’’, said the SGF in the circular.

He has imposed a mandatory condition that the Treasury Single Account (TSA) should govern all their financial transactions while the circular has also reduced the period of all remittances to the federal coffers from twelve months to three, a development which observers believe demonstrates the urgency and seriousness of government’s new reforms.  

A Federal permanent secretary in the know of the series of stages leading to the new measures told this newspaper on condition of anonymity, because he is not officially permitted to speak on it, that the actions were the final outcomes of Federal Government’s vigorous search for proper means to decisively clean up the system.

‘’You may perhaps be aware that one of the lessons of the last economic recession in the country was that government realized it could not comfortably fund its budget owing largely to, among others factors, the huge drop in its oil sales arising from the militants’ temper in the creeks of Niger Delta.

‘’And when things eventually got normalized, the government started to think of other ways and means of revenues to quickly shore up its coffers. Remember the VAIDs by the FIRS which were principally aimed at increasing collectable tax in the country. There were other similar moves in sister government agencies. 

‘’Yet government has continued to dig deeper into this search especially when experts often tell government to look inwards. For example, earlier this year, a forensic report was conducted by a popular audit firm, KPMG, which revealed, in brutal terms, that GOEs did not remit N8.1 trillion in five years, a figure almost equal to our national budget. You may ask how a whopping N8.1 trillion could find its way out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund into nowhere except private pockets. Such money in the hands of private persons can bring down government and truncate democracy in the country. 

‘’That is why our courts are now almost overwhelmed by humongous graft cases against several politically-exposed persons which the Federal Government has been prosecuting through EFCC, ICPC, Code of Conduct, etc. please don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking politics here. I mean when such money is in the hands of persons without any credible means of livelihood, it is very dangerous’’, said the permanent secretary.  

Weighing in on the public reactions to the government’s new drive to enthrone probity, efficiency and accountability in its businesses, Mr. Sule Nakande, of the Abuja Chamber of Commerce, Mines and Industry described the move as a welcome development especially in view of what he alleged as wanton financial waste and subversion of business rules in government-run agencies.

‘’This is perhaps the most daring and far-reaching of President Buhari’s policies to address avoidable graft, waste and corruption in government companies. We are not particularly surprised that these measures are coming in the heels of the implementation of the TSA. If properly enforced, these reforms will revolutionize government’s revenue collections especially in the way we run government’s business as if it is no man’s business’’, Nakande said.

Dr. Cosmas Chukwuma, a Sociology lecturer in a private university in Abuja praised the government for displaying rare academic depth anchored on skillful insight and strong political will to arrive at the new business measures, arguing that the latest moves were an improved approach to fighting corruption in government companies.

‘’We have had a situation in the past whereby chief executives of government companies operated several bank accounts many of which were only known to themselves alone. In my opinion, the next critical stage in the implementation of these measures is to evolve the necessary machinery for strict enforcement because when you fight corruption, it fights back. I believe that those who painstakingly prepared these reforms will also be given the right climate and opportunity to execute it to its logical conclusion’’, Dr. Chukwuma said.

A civil advocacy group, Concerned Professionals’ Congress (CPC) described the new measures as one of the best gifts of the current political dispensation to generations of Nigerians yet unborn.

Mr. Yakubu Zailani, on behalf of the pro-good governance group said that the new drive by government is capable of check-mating avoidable corruptible tendencies in the government-owned companies. The new policy, he said, should be holistically executed.

Pressed to react to alleged insinuations in certain quarters that the reforms came too late, the group contended that the policy could not be said to be late. He argued that President Muhammadu Buhari has the latitude to announce and implement any policy he considers right as long as it is within the limit of his tenure.

‘’The argument that the policy came late does not add up. It is a lame argument. No time is too late for an elected government to conceive, announce and execute any policy it deems fit, right and proper. We should avoid sacrificing the rightness and propriety of policies on the altar of timing except we want to be seen as partisan. Yes, I know that we are now in a political mood in the country but must we play politics with anything and everything? This new move to curb corruption in government revenue agencies could not have come at a better time. We saw how the spectacle of slush funds in GOEs turned many persons in the last administration into emergency millionaires and billionaires.  This should not continue if we are really serious as a nation’’, Zailani said.

He explained that when he was in the civil service, the first rules book they were given was on financial regulations.

 ‘’When GOEs are left on their own without subjecting them to institutional rules and enforcing them, you will certainly have a situation where government’s cash cow are turned into private cash cow. It had been rampant in the country. It must stop. This is what these new measures are meant to prevent. There is a local saying that the goat that makes away with your corn has less blame than the owner who left the corn in the open. 

He believes that the process of arriving at the new measures must have been very rigorous and painstaking. He said that the Secretary to the Government of the Federation should be duly credited for effectively galvanizing his team to come up with the reforms before obtaining the President’s approval.

‘’It takes uncommon insight, unusual courage driven by political will to evolve and execute these measures. The President, assisted particularly by the SGF’s current team, has shown rare capacity to make a difference as far as evolving and executing people-oriented and patriotic policies so far. Don’t forget too that it was the same Mr. President that saw the need to pull the bull by the horn to implement the Treasury Single Account (TSA) policy which the last government lacked the balls to so do. It only took the courage and single-minded devotion of the President to approve its implementation. Today, we are better’’, he said.              

 

Source Soundbite NEWS

Posted on December, 4 2018

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