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UNICAL fraud: It’s time to quickly fill the voids in TSA

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Since its full implementation in 2015, the Treasury Single Account (TSA) remains one of the current administration’s greatest accomplishments which the leading figures in this government do not fail to boast about at every opportunity they get. Truly, without meaning to take away from the feat TSA represents in a country like ours, it is proper to also bring to public attention some areas where its managers seem to consistently either overlook or ignore. One of such areas is in the aspects of monitoring.

On many occasions, several commentators have expressed concerns about the lack of proper management of TSA. When the question is asked, “Who owns TSA?” no clear answer suffices. At different times, its management has been assumed by the Ministry of Finance, Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, and the Central Bank, respectively. The attendant consequence of this confusion is multi-pronged, among which is its no-hold-barred flouting of TSA guidelines by Ministries, Departments & Agencies (MDAs).

A recent news item that made the rounds about a former bursar of the University of Calabar who is alleged to have used his official position to defraud the university, of over 20 million naira has raised a new challenge that must be tackled head-on. As was reported by Premium Times, the fraud was committed between January 2014 and November 2016, a period part of which TSA had already taken effect across MDAs.

When the TSA initiative was already live, how come such fraud, which knowing the Nigerian factor must have been taking place for a long time, continued unabated? While the prosecution of the accused is a welcome development and should actually be encouraged, such a case should transcend mere scape-goatism; other government parastatals should also be duly examined for such irregularities.

It stands to reason also that there is a quantum of collusion in the system. For instance, certain banks must have and might still be hiding government money. The University of Calabar flouted TSA guidelines and must have kept government money in private accounts, or where else would Mr. ex-bursar have transferred the money from? Could he have made transfers without anyone in the system being in the know?

This calls to question the ongoing audit of the TSA by the House of Representative’s ad-hoc Committee which seems to be dragging for too long. For the good of the Nigerian people, it is important that the investigation is comprehensive, concluded within the shortest time possible, and its finding made public.

So far, according to media reports, as at March 2018, Nigeria has been able to save a cumulative of N8.9T and N4.7B monthly in bank charges, as a result of TSA. If we could make so much from the current level of compliance, where there is minimal or no monitoring, imagine how much more we can make if indeed total compliance is enforced across all MDAs. 16 Trillion? Enough money to complete some of this administration’s key projects?

No doubt, TSA is a pride to Nigeria and is, in fact, worthy of being recommended to other countries. But things need to be tidied up so that we can achieve maximal impacts, and for this, the first important step is to know which parastatal of the federal government is accountable for it. Enough of the current system where its ‘body parts’ are in splinters everywhere. We need better coordination, for the good of one and all.

With TSA as this government’s greatest achievement in 3 years, it is important that President Buhari mandates his frontline officials to put their houses in order, so that this much-applauded initiative does not become his greatest undoing. This is especially as the 2019 electioneering season knocks.

Effiong Eshiet is a Cross-river based social commentator


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