Is Buhari’s TSA gradually becoming an orphan?

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When Mr. Abubakar Danburam-Nuhu, Chairman of the House of Representatives’ ad-hoc committee on Treasury Single Account (TSA) met with stakeholders last Wednesday, he made some strong observations and remarks.

He was in the company of other members of his committee at a public hearing designed to bring together various stakeholders to discuss issues relating to the implementation and workings of the TSA. Mr. Nuhu’s passionate statements brought to the fore some very important issues affecting the TSA policy which hitherto seem to have been hidden from people who should know and be concerned and straightening things.

Firstly, he was pained that though, the TSA continues to be touted as the flagship economic policy of the current government, the policy was being handled with kids gloves by some key stakeholders.

Specifically, he observed that some head of organisations that should be at the forefront of pushing for the success of the policy were not even at the public hearing. It was even more disheartening because the hearing was arranged to discuss issues bordering on the survival and smooth operation of the policy.

Heaving with deep passion and patriotism, Mr. Nuhu pointed out that “the committee has been constrained by some stakeholders submitting information piece-meal or failing to comply with the TSA policy altogether.”

According to Mr. Nuhu, “it is an appalling situation that an organisation continues to supress government revenue by not disclosing accounts held.” And that has been the case since some banks are still holding back funds that should have been remitted into TSA long ago.  These defaulters include banks, government corporations and other companies that otherwise should have complied with the policy.

But that was not all. He also painted a positive and exhilarating picture which has not been strongly emphasised since the commencement of the policy or the beginning of the committee’s investigation.

“This committee is impressed that a Nigerian company is providing the platform that TSA runs on,” he said. “The report from CBN and from the office of the Accountant General of the Federation have shown that Remita platform has performed exceptionally,” he added. But that was before he dropped a bomb-shell.

Many do not know that while commercial banks have been at the forefront of seeing to the success of TSA, till this day, they have not been paid for the services they have been rendering. Neither has the company that provides the technological platform upon which TSA runs been paid!

But Mr. Nuhu gave some assurance, “in line with the agenda of the 8th House of Representatives, the committee will do everything possible to ensure that what is due to the companies and the various stakeholders that are supposed to be paid their own dues are paid.“

It is saddening that two years into the implementation of a policy that has ensured N7 trillion has been smoothly paid directly into the coffers of the federal government of Nigeria, it is taking a committee to stamp its feet to guarantee that sums owed to companies and banks that have facilitated the process will be paid.

This certainly has not been the case with whistle-blowers whose roles have not been definitely guaranteed by solid legislation or written contracts.

On 12 April 2017, newspapers in Nigeria broke news that $43.5 million, £27,800 and N23.2 million were reported to have been found by a whistle-blower at No. 16 Osborne Road, in Lagos. The Ikoyi whistle-blower was promptly paid 5% of the recovered sum by government a few weeks ago as opposed to those who have designed systems, invested in infrastructure and come up with processes that have seen government takings quadruple.

What makes it even more alarming is that while a whistle-blower gets 5% percent of what is recovered as a result of his effort, NPA/Intel’s Pilotage Services Collection fee is 28% of whatever is collected on government’s behalf, Nigeria Customs Cost of Collections is 7%, FIRS Cost of Collections is 4%, while those responsible for providing TSA infrastructure and services get 1% of what their effort yields to government!

Some analysts have even pointed out that the non-payment of the providers of the TSA infrastructure and services is a calculated attempt by some interests within government to frustrate and terminate the TSA policy in a bid to make the scheme run down so things can revert to status quo.

Apart from the House of Representatives committee which is making great efforts to ensure full compliance with the policy, it seems the federal government institutions (especially the ministry of finance) expected to take full responsibility for the success of the initiative are too busy with media propaganda than actual ownership and operation of the scheme. Or how else does one explain that it is the House of Reps that has discovered incidences of serial blatant disregard for the local and foreign components of the TSA policy.

On another hand, it is sad that the Nigerian government has not deemed it fit in the last six years of implementing the TSA, to communicate anything about such a significant national initiative to its citizenry.

Why on earth has the Ministry of Finance found it so difficult to make available to the media and general public regular information on the level of TSA compliance or non-compliance by MDAs and also information on “presidential exemptions” that have been granted if any (NNPC N50  billion discovered by House of Reps comes to mind). Even if it would refuse to speak to its citizens, would it want to borrow a leaf from Egypt that recently started announcing to the world its landmark achievement of cashless transactions in its government operations?

This was what the Nigerian Government achieved 5 years ago with TSA and yet, citizens at home don’t even know about this or if it means anything at all. Before you know it, the Egyptian story will be so well told that Nigeria would be described as learning “cashless” from Egypt-the home of African civilization.

Are the current discoveries by the House of Reps enough to stop us from telling our TSA success story to the world to draw attention to ourselves and the power of indigenous technology to successfully address national problems?

So who exactly in Government has the primary responsibility for the overall success of TSA and its long-term sustainability and why is no one stepping out to be so identified?

It is sad to recall the public disowning of TSA by the current Central Bank governor during the early days of its travail on the floor of the Senate. At least he made the world know it was not his call.

Since then, we are yet to see anyone step out to own and take responsibility for TSA and answer the questions the House of Reps have been asking about why there is still non-compliance with local and foreign components of TSA, who is responsible for authoring and granting exemptions, why have service providers and banks remained unpaid and why has the Auditor General of the Federation been side-lined  and not provided with requested insights into TSA operations.

 

Before, Mr Nuhu continued deliberations of the issues that necessitated the hearing of last Wednesday, he said that “a key factor in ensuring the sustainability of the TSA will be the presence of a strong legislative backing which will compel institutions to comply and implement the policy.”

He promised that “as a parliament, we are ready to provide the legislative backing and pray that the almighty shall guide our thinking throughout….”

 

Indeed, Mr. Nuhu and his team can be described as a patriots who are pushing an agenda that will make government’s financial management more transparent and sustainable. But shouldn’t the powerful forces at the presidency be the ones pushing this policy being its biggest beneficiaries or are they the ones who stand to benefit more if the policy fails?

 

 

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