Accountant General talks about ‘Government money withheld by commercial banks’

the General Account Office said he was unaware of the location of the 1.2 trillion naira belonging to the federal government which the banks refused to release despite several directives requiring them to do so.

During Monday’s investigative hearing into unclaimed funds held by an ad hoc committee of the House of Representatives, Sylva Okorieaboh, director of the OAGF, revealed that the agency, which is legally responsible for keeping records government financial backers, is unaware of the details of the funds withheld by the banks.

Mr Okorieaboh, who represented OAGF at the hearing, however, said the government was aware that the banks were in breach of the government’s Treasury Single Account (TSA) policy. But he said the agency does not know the details of the funds or their locations.

The official, who is the coordinator of the TSA, said Finance and National Planning Minister Zainab Ahmed had set up a committee to review the implementation of federal government policy.

According to him, the minister had ordered the banks to hand over the funds to the TSA or risk being dragged to anti-corruption agencies “but the banks are not backing down.”

“We are aware that there is a strong likelihood that a substantial amount of federal government funds will still be held by commercial banks despite the Presidential Directive of August 7, 2015, and the circulars and efforts to compel commercial banks to comply with these guidelines.”

On December 14, 2021, the Minister of Finance inaugurated a new implementation structure for the TSA and she alluded to the fact that it is likely that significant amounts of federal government funds are still in the hands of commercial banks. She ordered banks to return those funds or they will be reported to anti-corruption agencies.

“We believe there are still federal government funds with commercial banks, but we cannot say precisely how much and where. So to that extent, we commend the efforts of this committee.

“The TSA directive that we published in 2015, on page 14, states that all collections must be transferred daily to their individual federation account at CBN. The use of intermediary accounts is not permitted. first day is what we’ve always tried to enforce so if any bank or MDA doesn’t do that it’s clearly a violation and the work of this committee will help us sort out anything from this genre.

The TSA, which is a unified accounting system for all federal government cash flows, prohibits MDAs from operating an account outside of the TSA system.

The mandate of the Committee

The decision to establish the committee follows the adoption of a motion by Dachung Bagos (PDP, Plateau) on the need to investigate unclaimed funds in commercial banks.

The House had mandated the committee to investigate suspicious unclaimed funds trapped in commercial banks, including advance payments by the government for contracts.

The committee was also mandated to investigate unremitted funds collected on behalf of federal government departments and agencies by commercial banks.

Its chairman, Uyime Idem (PDP, Akwa-Ibom), explained that the inquiry will focus on the specific roles of the Central Bank of Nigeria, commercial banks and Federal Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) on the issue. unclaimed funds.

In addition, the committee will review the level of compliance with TSA policy by MDAs since it came into effect in December 2015 and the review of long-standing Advance Payment Guarantees (APGs) issued on Federal Government projects, and monies held due to failed and unperformed contracts.

In addition, the committee will review the assessment of the level of compliance with the operation of the Bank Verification Number (BVN) scheme by Nigerian commercial banks under the supervision of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and other stakeholders such than the Nigerian bank. Interbank Settlement System (NIBSS).

Speaking at the hearing, Budget Office Director General Ben Akabueze, who represented Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed, said “the ministry did not understand the letter that was sent to them”.

READ ALSO: We have no way to monitor TSA revenue in real time – Accountant General

According to Mr Akabueze, they believed the investigation related to unclaimed funds in dormant and inactive accounts.

“When we received this invitation which spoke of unclaimed funds in Nigerian Commercial Banks, my initial reading is that these are inactive accounts, dormant accounts as the regulations in place guiding the management of these issued by the CBN, in October 2015, provides guidelines for the management of inactive accounts, dormant accounts and unclaimed funds.These guidelines require any bank to notify the federal government of the existence of such funds belonging to it,” said he declared.

Meanwhile, declaring the investigative hearing open, the President, Femi Gbajabiamila, who was represented by the Vice President, Idris Wase (APC, Plateau), said the said N1.2 trillion will contribute go a long way to easing the budget constraint facing the county. .

Other MDAs that have appeared before the panels are the Federal Aviation Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and some bank representatives.

The chairman of the committee ordered that the banks be given specific dates to appear before the committee.

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