The high level impunity in the nation’s civil service and the extent to which some public office holders engage in sleaze is alarmingly worrisome. But more disconcerting is the fact that the unfortunate scenario appears to be seen as the norm.
Recently, the federal government revealed that from 2010 to 2015, some revenue generating agencies under-remitted revenues accruing to the government coffers to the tune of N8.1trillion. The discovery was an outcome of an audit conducted by a reputable audit firm. The result of the audit was the discovery that the agencies failed to remit N8.1 trillion to the federation account. The amount is about six times the N1.34 trillion said to have been stolen by individuals between 2006 and 2015.
In clear terms, these agencies, due to error of omission or commission, denied the nation the opportunity of enriching its purse, on the average, by over N1trn annually! This amount, without gainsaying it, if judiciously applied to the challenges in critical sectors like power, water supply or health, would no doubt have made meaningful impact.
Some of the startling discoveries included the fact that apart from outright embezzlement of funds, some of the revenue generating agencies indulged in very irregular financial activities including paying salaries above specifications spelt out by the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission- RMFAC.
This newspaper is appalled by this development in which some of these organisations abused existing legislations that permitted their use of a fraction of what they generated as running costs.
Hiding under that, these organisations disappointingly frittered away as much as 90 per cent of the total revenue they generated not minding the fact that government is still funding both their capital and recurrent expenditures.
Lamentably, we recall that this discovery is coming at a time of serious concerns over the ability of the nation to effectively execute this year’s Appropriation Act without borrowing.
More than anything else, it is our view that this alarming discovery is reminiscent of the huge differentials between the remittance made by the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board-JAMB-, under successive regimes and the one made by the administration of the incumbent registrar.
Instances like this showed clearly that the nation doesn’t even need to engage the services of an audit firm before establishing the fact that something had gone wrong. Following this revelation, we see no reason why managers of government’s revenue generating agencies should be allowed to short change the nation in such a brazen manner.
We are, on the basis of this, urge the government to apply all due diligence as it unravels the reasons for this under-remittances and factors that gave the agencies the impetus to engage in this worrisome sabotage.
We think beyond this audit which of course is the first step, government must be courageous enough to take the next and inevitable step by ensuring that all those found culpable in this high profile sleaze are made to face the full wrath of the law.
Anti-graft agencies like the EFCC and indeed, the ICPC including the Code of Conduct Bureau, must swing into action by clinically engaging those who served as chief executive officers of these agencies within the time span covered by the audit.
The role played by internal auditors must also be scrutinized so as to ascertain the level of their culpability in aiding and abetting this economic crime against the nation.
We believe, without any contestation, that those who piloted the affairs of these agencies, more than anyone else, have questions to answer and as such, should be called upon to offer explanations.
In a similar manner, we strongly recommend that government should adopt stiff measures including assets confiscation, to ensure the recovery of all or substantial part of this money.
Of course, the bureaucrats-some of whom may still be in service, like the directors and other senior civil servants who may have aided and abetted this under-remittance, must also be made to face the complete weight of the law.
But then of course, there is the need for government to extend the audit beyond the 2010-2015 time frames, and also, ensure all revenue generating agencies are covered, so that Nigerians can know how these agencies fare.
We believe the war on graft must be total and without compassion! No nation develops to its full potentials with the level of financial sleaze being perpetrated in Nigeria. The time to clean the Augean stable is now and so government must strengthen the anti-graft agencies to effectively confront this hydra-headed monster head on.