There was drama at the Senate yesterday as the Accountant General of the Federation and the Comptroller General (CG) of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) disagreed over the N28 billion unremitted fund into the Federation Account in 2015.
The disagreement occurred when Col. Hameed Ali, Comptroller General of NCS and Ahmed Idris, the Accountant General of the Federation, who was also represented by who was represented by a Director in his office, Feyintola Olusegun, appeared before the Senate Committee on Public Accounts to address the audit query from the Auditor-General of the Federation, Anthony Ayine over the unremitted funds.
Ayine had in the Financial Statement of the Auditor General’s office asked the Accountant General of the Federation to explain the difference in the figures remitted by Nigeria Customs Service and the figure in his own records.
The audited report showed that the Accountant General’s office remitted N157 billion against NCS statement which showed that they remitted N185 billion. The Accountant General had earlier referred the Auditor General and the Senate committee to the NCS for more explanation.
Ali, while appearing before the Senate Committee on Public Accounts led by Senator Matthew Urhoghide said that the query was strange and absolved his agency of any wrongdoing. Going further, he added that the mode of collections by customs is purely automated and stated that there is a problem for anybody to point at them.
However, in what appears like a new twist, the Accountant General made a U-turn with a statement that the N28 billion was for ECOWAS stabilization fund for 2015. This new explanation did not go down well with the lawmakers as it was quite different from his earlier submission to the Senate Committee. Also, there was no documentary evidence to back up this claim.
However, on the query of non-remittance of the pension fund, Ali admitted that the NCS defaulted in 2015 as the agency did not have enough funds to meet up with its obligations.
The committee Chairman expressed displeasure that for over five years, a lot of the Ministries, Departments, and Agencies refused to produce their audited accounts. He reminded the Customs boss that the Customs Act states that the agency must send in their audited accounts six months into a new financial year.
The office of the Auditor-General of the Federation is a separate and independent entity with the powers, duties, and responsibilities to conduct periodic checks on all Government statutory corporations, commissions, authorities, and agencies, including all persons and bodies established by an Act of the National Assembly. The Auditor-General is expected to within 90 days of the receipt of Accountant General’s financial statement submit his report to the National Assembly, which will be considered by the Public Accounts Committees of both chambers of the National Assembly.
It had earlier been reported in December 2019, that about 265 agencies of the Federal Government, including the National Assembly itself, violated the fiscal and audit rules, especially with poor compliance on the submission of the financial statements to the Auditor General’s office.