Senate adopts Customs budget without audited account

The Senate on Tuesday adopted the 2020 Budget estimate of the Nigerian Customs Service.

The report presented by Chairman, Senate Committee on Customs, Excise and Tariffs, Senator Francis Alimikhena approved the sum of N238.15 billion for Nigeria Customs Service for the 2020 financial year.

The lawmakers were, however, divided on the adoption of the budget estimate without the corresponding audited report of the agency which stipulated that its audited report must be concluded, six months to a new financial year.

Some of the senators noted that apart from the NCS, other Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) have for the past six years not submitted their audited reports.

Tribune Online checks revealed that Senate approval of the NCS budget was a flagrant rejection of the recommendations of the Auditor General of Federation (AGF), Anthony Ayine, who recommended that the National Assembly should sanction MDAs that failed to submit their audited report by denying them financial releases.

Ayine in his recommendation contained in the Executive Summary to the Senate Public Accounts Committee, led by Senator Mathew Uroghide, the Auditor General said, “stringent sanctions, including withholding financial releases and sanction of the chief executive officer should be imposed on defaulting agencies that do not render timely accounts as provided in the constitution, financial regulations and other relevant laws.”

The Auditor-General also said 160 agencies defaulted in the submission of audited accounts for 2016; 265 agencies defaulted in the submission of audited accounts for 2017, and that eleven agencies have never submitted any financial statements since inception.

Senator Ibn Na’allah in his contribution declared that senators would be doing a disservice to the nation approving the NCS budget for 2020 without its audit report for 2019.

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He said: “This Senate has a duty to bring all agencies into conformity with the vision of Federal Government. We must bring our institutions to conform with what will make the country proud. We can’t pass this kind of budget.”

Chairman Senate Committee on Finance, Solomon Olamilekan Adeola, frowned at the NCS deduction of 7 per cent of revenue collected, 2 per cent from all Value Added Tax (VAT), allocation from the federation account and other revenues while it observed auditing of its accounts in the breach.

He argued that the revenue agency collects “two per cent of all VAT revenues, six per cent of all collectable revenues, 60 per cent of all comprehensive insurance supervision, drawings from Federation accounts and yet failed to submit its accounts for auditing.”

Senator James Manager said the report of the Senator Alimikhena committee was too scanty and should be rejected.

“This report is too scanty for us to look at. The Committee should have taken a proper look at the report before submitting it to us. We need to look at the federation account.”

Senator Gabriel Suswam in his contribution aligned with the submission of Senator Manager as he noted that the figures in the NCS budget estimate did not add up.

President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, in his concluding remarks before the Red Chamber adopted the Customs budget estimate called on the MDAs to show fidelity to the rules mandating them to present their audited report.

“We expect MDAs to present their audited accounts before the end of the year especially towards the end of December or at least the first quarter of next year, that is if we include all the calendar months.

“If any agency refuses or fails without any cogent reason, we have reason to take drastic action when it comes to appropriation because not to account for what you have been given in the previous year, that is to say, you are not prepared to take a new budget.

“So I’m advising the MDAs, especially those that are not up to date with their audited accounts to do so. We could decide as a National Assembly to take measures against agencies of government that are not up to date with their audited accounts.”

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