Perceptive understanding of constitutional mandates pitches agencies against one another
There was a disagreement, yesterday, over constitutional mandates, as Chairman of Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), Elias Mbam, Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, and Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Dr. Muhammad Nami, held contrary views as to which agencies were empowered to collect, monitor and remit revenues to the Federation Account and the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF).
The crisis came to the fore during submissions to the Senate Committee on Finance on the 2021 Finance Bill. While the RMAFC chair, faulted Section 68 (2) of the bill seeking exclusive powers of revenue collection, monitoring and enforcement to the FIRS, Ahmed, the Accountant-General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, and the FIRS chair said RMAFC’s functions were not threatened by the proposed legislation.
Section 68 (2) states that “FIRS is the primary agency in charge of administration, assessment, collection, accounting and enforcement of taxes.”
While faulting the provisions, the RMAFC chairman said there “is no objection to FIRS being the primary agency responsible for assessment, collection and accounting, but doesn’t have an exclusive power of enforcement.”
He continued: “This word (enforcement) is infringing on the monitoring mandate of RMAFC in the area of enforcement and compliance.
“RMAFC shall not wait for FIRS as a primary agency to carry out enforcement of lost or unremitted government revenue before performing its monitoring functions or seek approval of the Minister of Finance before carrying out its constitutional mandate of enforcement.
“The exclusivity clause of enforcement to FIRS should not be granted and as such, be expunged.”
In a counter-submission, the FIRS boss said the RMAFC mandate to monitor revenue was not exclusive, as other relevant agencies or bodies like the Budget Office, Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, Ministry of Finance, Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) and others had a concurrent mandate to monitor revenue.
“What is clear and exclusive is that FIRS possess the mandate to access, collect and account for taxes accruing into the Federation Account.
“Monitoring revenues are not the same as collecting and enforcing them in form of taxes,” he added.