The House of Representatives’ Public Accounts Committee has summoned the heads of the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE), Nigeria Oil and Gas Free Zone Authority (NOGFZA), the Standard organization of Nigeria (SON) and the Federal Inland Revenue Services, FIRS over the loss of Billion’s of naira in revenue from companies operating in the oil and gas free zones as contained in the audit queries issued by the office of the Auditor General for the Federation.
The Committee also directed its clerk to publish the said audit queries from the office against defaulting agencies in three national dailies for the public, as well as the President to see.
The committee had hinged its rulings on the reports of the Auditor General for the Federation detailing several infractions by government Ministries, Departments and Agencies submitted to it for legislative action.
The committee chairman, Hon. Oluwole Oke (PDP, Osun) at the resumed investigation of Ministries, Departments and Agencies MDAs on Monday lamented the attitudes of the relevant government agencies who he said abdicated their statutory responsibilities of generating revenue for government whilst Nigeria goes cap-in-hand looking for loans from foreign countries and creditors to finance the nation’s annual budgets
He directed the immediate publication of the Audit queries of the Agencies in three National Dailies while their officials should course appearance before the Committee within the 14 day of the publication
He said the purpose of the publication was to enable Nigerians and President Muhammadu Buhari see and know those agencies sabotaging government’s efforts to make life better for the citizenry.
He lamented that a situation where the country keeps suffering the loss of revenue through non issuance of receipts for payments made to Oil and Gas Free Zone Authority, Fraudulent practices on issuance of Certificates of Acceptance on Capital Allowances by the Inspectorate Division of the Ministry of Trade and Industry was unfortunate and unacceptable.
“We have invited all the regulators. Federal Ministry of Industry, Oil and Gas Free zone Authority, Onne, Standard Organisation of Nigerian and they are supposed to appear today. But they are not here. All the companies listed by the regulators, some of them are here, but the regulators are not here. From the evidences presented by these companies, we discovered that a company’s capital allowances rose fr9om N4 billion to N33 billion within a year and they brought the certificate here for us to see. We called ministry of Industry to come and confirm whether they issued the certificate or not. If you issued a certificate for a foreign asset, an asset acquired outside the country, at least, there will be import duty, there will be receipt. Ministry of Industry, did you inspect the asset before you issued certificate of N33 billion? Those are the questions we are asking ministry of industry to come and answer. They have refused to come.
“Oil and Gas Free Zone Authority collected money in dollars from licensees and refused to issue receipt to them. All the licensees that have appeared before this panel said they were not issued receipts. Oil and gas Freee Zone, come and tell Nigerians why you did not issue them receipts and where is our money? The Minister of Finance has said severally that we will continue to borrow money to finance our budget because we have revenue gaps and because we are unable to collect the revenue we should have collected. The parliament cannot fold its hands. The difference between tax evasion and tax avoidance is very narrow. So, our ruling is that I want us to publish all the queries in three national dailies and all the regulators concerned and licensees who made allegations that they paid XYZ,” the chairman ruled.
He added that while the committee is not out to with hunt anyone or agency, it’s however interested in finding out if the enabling laws are no longer active and obsolete, so that the Parliament can enact new ones to enhance performance and economic growth.
Oke also ruled that the Director General of the Bureau for Public Enterprises must appear in person to answer queries issued against his agency, just as he is expected to appear with the Certificate of Acceptance for Capital Allowance.
This came just as the office of the Auditor General of the Federation indicted the Federal Inland Revenue Services, FIRS over expending the whopping sum of N45m within a week i for a room accommodation at theTranscop Hotel in Abuja
Hon Oke lamented that while the Management of the Hotel appeared before the Committee the FIRS had shuned the invitation extended to it over the reckless spending as queried by the office of the Auditor General of the Federation
He however directed that the audit query should be extracted and be published in the National dailies