FAAN’s Unremitted N65b
The recent uncovering by the Federal House of Representatives of unremitted funds by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to the Consolidated Revenue Funds (CRF) is really worrisome and a damage to the public trust. This is because the management of government fiscal operations is at the heart of the growth of the largely public sector dominated Nigerian economy. The House of Representatives was able to uncover this lack of remittance by the FAAN by virtue of the power conferred on it by Section 88 of the 1999 Constitution, which empowers it to, by resolution, direct or cause to be directed investigations into disbursing or administering monies appropriated or to be appropriated by the National Assembly – to among others, expose corruption, inefficiency or waste.
This is so because the efficient collection and spending of public funds adds to the entrenchment of functional economic governance structures. The discovery indicates that FAAN remitted only N9 billion to the CRF instead of the required sum of N76 billion it earned over the period, leaving a whooping N65 billion unremitted. As would be expected, FAAN came up with series of excuses such as the decision to subsidise operations of 19 of the 22 non-profit yielding airports across the country, as well as discrepancies in the details of money remitted to the CRF and records at the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation.
That these reasons are not tenable have been well articulated by the House of Representatives in their interaction with the Managing Director of FAAN. However, the worrisome part of the whole non-remittance imbroglio is the systemic gaps that have allowed heads of government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to have such excessive leverage and unhindered access to and control of public funds without remitting the funds and then come up with untenable reasons in defence. This is very unacceptable and a very poor practice in public financial management. Ideally, the MDAs should not have this unfettered leeway in deciding whether to remit or not to remit public funds to the CRF neither should they have the liberty to determine the amount they choose to remit. As clearly stipulated in the Constitution, the CRF as the name suggests, is the “main bank account” of government and thus the expected destination of all publicly collected funds, by the appropriate remitting MDAs. Hence, the public financial management system is expected to make it easy for heads of remitting MDAs to perform this critical function, as expected by the Constitution.
The blame for this lack of appropriate remittance by some MDAs should be laid squarely at the doorsteps of government. In this era of technological innovations, it should be very feasible for appropriate surpluses by the MDAs to be seamlessly transferred to the CRF. This should thus naturally boost the collection of public funds for use in the provision of public service – in the enhancement of economic development.
The urgent need to boost Nigeria’s public finance cannot be overemphasised, particularly at this time when even the Minister of Finance lamented that revenue collection is the major challenge the Federal Government is confronted with in the implementation of the annual budgets. This sorry state of affairs has led to the increasing rate of public indebtedness with the country’s public debt burden currently becoming overbearing and the debt service payments growing in leaps and bounds. With the frequent volatility experienced in the oil sector, the mainstay of the Nigerian economy, all efforts are expected to be required in the harnessing of all collectibles and all taxes from the respective MDAs of government. This is a matter of public emergency, as clearly reflected in the quick passage of the 2020 Finance Act, to boost revenue.
This non-remittance of revenue by FAAN should not be treated with kid’s gloves. The searchlight should also be beamed on other MDAs that might be involved in this unwholesome practice.
Appropriate sanctions should be applied, as necessary. In the FAAN case, the defaulting officers should be adequately punished. In this era of government intense focus on the fight against corruption, such loopholes as experienced in FAAN should not be permitted, in FAAN and in the other MDAs of government.