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AGF, Emefiele disown TSA contracts, payments

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EMEFIELE-G

Godwin Emefiele, CBN Governor

• We have valid documents, says firm
• Senate debates MTEF, confirms Fowler as FIRS boss

AS the Senate investigated the operations of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) yesterday, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor Godwin Emefiele said that he knew nothing about the scheme before the probe.

Emefiele specifically denied knowledge of the appointment of a private firm to manage the transfer of funds to the apex bank in compliance with the TSA regime that led to the alleged payment of N25 billion to System Spec. System Spec is the owner of Remita, the software that was used for the transfer.

On his part, the Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, disclosed that he never ‎signed any payment for System Spec which facilitated the transfer of funds from all Federal Government agencies to the CBN. Idris also told the committee that he never signed any document for the appointment of the firm.

The Senate also yesterday debated the 2016-2018 Medium Term Expenditure Framework ‎(MTEF) and asked its committee on Finance and National Planning to conduct further legislative research into it and submit findings today. Also, the lawmakers confirmed the appointment of Mr. Babatunde Fowler as the new Director-General of Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS).

At the public hearing by the Senate Joint Committee investigating the matter, Emefiele also disclosed that he never knew about the payment of one percent of money collected to the company prior to the ‎intervention of the Senate.

The Senate had last month asked its committees on Finance, Banking and other Financial Institutions and Public Accounts to carry out a holistic investigation into the operation of the TSA.

Although the upper chamber commended President Muhammadu Buhari for the introduction of TSA, it said its designated committees should look into the operations of the policy and report back in four weeks.

This followed the adoption of a motion entitled “Abuse and Mismanagement of the Treasury Single Account Regime,” sponsored by Senator Dino Melaye and 31 others.

At the hearing yesterday, the CBN boss said: “I must openly and honestly own up to you that I did not know that one per cent was being deducted on the transfer of funds to TSA account until the Senate raised it.
“I immediately called‎ Remita (System Spec) and insisted that they should reverse and return the money they collected. That is what I know.”

Emefiele also told the committee that he had never agreed with the one percent charge by the company on the amount transferred to CBN from government agencies pointing out that it was exorbitant.
He, however, accepted that an inter-departmental ‎committee of the CBN approved the one percent charge which he insisted he was never aware of.

But the Managing Director of System Spec, John Obaro, presented documents showing that a former deputy governor of CBN, Tunde Lemon, signed the contract for the firm’s appointment beginning from October 2012 and ending in November 2013.

When the committee pointed out that there was no document showing the appointment was renewed in 2015 particularly for the TSA job, Obaro explained that the 2012 appointment letter made provision for a re-engagement which he argued was what was used in re-appointing the company in 2015 for the TSA job.

The sharing ratio according to Obaro is 50‎ per cent for System Spec, 40 percent for commercial banks and 10 per cent for the CBN.
‎ The accountant general informed the committee that he refused to sign the contract document for the appointment of System Spec because he was not party to the terms.
“I was approached to sign a document on the appointment of System Spec but I refused to sign because I was not party to the terms. Part of the reason was that I‎ disagreed with the payment of one per cent charge. There is no agreement between my office and the CBN on the appointment of Remita (System Spec). My office has never made any payment to anybody including Remita (System Spec)as far as this TSA transaction is concerned”, Idris said.

During the debate, most senators asked the Federal Government to totally remove fuel subsidy and borrow as much as necessary to be able to embark on effective capital development that would propel the economy towards improved performance in 2016.

They also disagreed on the benchmark of $38 per barrel of crude as projected by the Federal Government in the 2016 budget estimates.

Some of the legislators also condemned the late submission of the MTEF to the National Assembly by the Executive, saying that it would delay the passing of the budget and its implementation.

According to the Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekwerenmadu , despite the utmost importance of MTEF and budget, successive governments have not given it the priority it deserves.
Ekweremadu also said the 38 dollars per barrel benchmark proposed by the Buhari administration seemed to be conservative, since estimates showed that oil price would hover between 45 dollars.

He advised the Senate to review the oil benchmark upwards to $40 per barrel, to enable the Federal Government to generate more revenue, which would boost the allocation to states, to enable them to pay salaries and do some capital projects.

But Senator Adamu Aliero (APC Kebbi Central) argued that based on the progressive fall in the oil price at the international market, the earlier suggestion by his colleagues to increase the oil benchmark above $38 was unrealistic, calling for its reduction to $35 per barrel.

Senator James Manager (Delta South) expressed doubts about the ability of the country to meet the projected budget of N6 trillion, urging the Federal Government to come up with a more realistic budget while Senator Ahmad Lawan congratulated Buhari on giving Nigerians a budget proposal where 30 per cent would go directly to the people.

On his part , Senator Ben Murray-Bruce said that the 2016 budget being proposed was not different from last year’s budget, noting that the disparity was largely in the area of exchange rates.
He said: “All successive governments have made the wrong argument on deregulation. The correct price of petrol is usually found in Abuja, Lagos and Port Harcourt. Government should ask what the price of transportation is, not how much a liter of petrol is.”

During the debate, most senators asked the Federal Government to totally remove fuel subsidy ‎just as others called it to go into heavy borrowing in order to be able to embark on effective capital development that would propel the economy towards improved performance in 2016.

They also disagreed on the benchmark of $38 per barrel of crude as projected by the Federal Government in the 2016 budget estimates.
Some of the legislators also frowned at the late submission of the document to the National Assembly by the Executive, saying that it would delay the passing of the budget and its implementation.

Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekwerenmadu, while contributing, expressed concern that, in spite of the utmost importance of MTEF and budget, successive governments had not given it the priority it deserved.

Ekweremadu also said the 38 dollars per barrel benchmark proposed by the Buhari administration seemed to be conservative, since estimates showed that oil price would hover between 45 dollars and advised the Senate to review the oil benchmark upwards to 40 dollars per barrel, to enable the Federal Government generate more revenue, which would boost the allocation to states, to enable them pay salaries and do some capital projects.

On his part, Senator Adamu Aliero (APC Kebbi Central) argued that based on the progressive fall in the oil price at the international market, the earlier suggestion by his colleagues to increase the oil benchmark above $38 was unrealistic, just as he called for its reduction to $35 per barrel.


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