Reps uncover ‘secret’ account by infrastructure commission
• Finance ministry aware of its operation, says DG
• Presidency lists gains of anti-graft fight
A secret account allegedly being operated by the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) has been uncovered by the House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts.
According to the committee, the account is not among the three statutory ones being operated by the commission.
The discovery is contained in the three queries raised against the commission by the Office of Auditor General of the Federation for the year ended December 31, 2010.
In the audited report forwarded to the House of Representatives, the AGF accused ICRC of financial impropriety and urged the legislature to investigate alleged indiscretion of the commission.
The AGF further accused the commission of failure to remit N49.538 million operating surplus for 2009 to the nation’s consolidated revenue fund as well as N1.144 million withholding and value added tax (VAT) deductible from 16 payments totaling N12. 609 million made to contractors and not remitted to the tax authority.
Some lawmakers who got the document said the account with more than N3.5million was domiciled in a new generation bank.
In his defence, the Director General of ICRC, Aminu Diko said the account, which the lawmakers were considering as secret was not actually so. He said it was the commission’s project account being operated with the consent of the Federal Ministry of Finance. According to Diko, the money in the account usually comes from the World Bank for the sole purpose of project implementation.
The director general said the account had been in use as his predecessor, who was a signatory to it, handed over signatory rights to him upon assumption of office.
Keyinde Odeneye (APC, Ogun) demanded an explanation on why there are no tax reductions from the account inflows.
Gabriel Onyenwife (APGA, Anambra) called for status inquiry of the controversial account and all other ones being operated by the commission.
At its last meeting with the committee on July 18, 2013, based on the report of the AGF, the committee had requested the commission to avail it with bank statements for the three accounts it is operating, asset/revenue registers, expenditure incurred and amount received as subvention from the Federal Government as relates to accusation of non-remittance of operating surplus within the year under review.
Also regarding the accusation, the lawmakers requested photocopies of receipts issued for the bidding process, capital expenditure incurred in the year under review and nature of contract, amount involved, stages of the contract, amount paid so far, outstanding balance and the value of the contract.
On the alleged non-remittance of taxes from the 16 payments, the committee had further asked the commission to provide all bank vouchers, statements, evidence of reduction of WHT and VAT from 2009-2012, contract files in the N12.6 million value and full list of all contracts done in the years under review.
On the next adjourned date, which is yet to be made public, the committee said it would thoroughly examine the requested documents. The lawmakers urged the commission to ensure the availability of those that they have not yet forwarded to the secretariat of the committee.
Meanwhile, the Presidency has dismissed critics of the administration, saying President Muhammadu Buhari’s stance against graft and commitment to transparency and accountability has saved Nigeria trillions of naira, which could have been diverted to private pockets.
It was reacting yesterday to what it described as “toxic cynicism” and “attack” on President Buhari by a former member of the House of Representatives from Kano State, Dr Junaidu Muhammed.
The Presidency, in a statement by Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu last night urged Nigerians to be wary of
“biased critics” who are only interested in destroying every positive effort and achievement of the government.
“The fact that civil servants and political office holders are now afraid to steal with impunity is itself a major psychological boost for the anti-corruption crusade of the Buhari administration, which no sincere Nigerian can pretend not to notice.”
”While Dr. Junaidu Mohammed is entitled to his opinion, he is not entitled to misrepresenting facts about the concrete achievements of the Buhari administration in the past two or so years, including the undeniable fact that the Boko Haram terrorists have been significantly crippled militarily, because they no longer have the capability to invade and occupy towns and villages unchallenged by the country’s reinvigorated and motivated military personnel.”