Thursday, November 13, 2008

Unrecorded excess crude fund

The report by the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) that a princely sum of N13.6 trillion, being revenue from excess crude appropriated by both the federal and state governments between 2004 and last year, has been withdrawn and possibly squandered without any record-keeping is, indeed, a very disturbing piece of news.

Chairman of the commission, Alhaji Hamman Tukur, who revealed this last week in Abuja said the expenditures by the two-tiers (Federal and State governments, were even not reflected in subsequent years’ budget proposals sent to the National Assembly and the state legislatures, by the former President and governors, respectively.

The RMAFC is constitutionally mandated to monitor revenue accruing to The Federation Account and its disbursement. The commission is also empowered by section 124, subsections 1 and 2, of the 1999 Constitution to fix remuneration and salaries of public office holders.

One interpretation of the disclosure by the RMAFC is that both the Federal government and state governments have not been rendering returns to their respective legislatures of the monies withdrawn from the Federation Account in respect of the excess crude between the years 2004 and 2007. This implies reckless spendings by the first and second tiers of government.

Given the quantum of money involved, we recommend that the National Assembly should wade in immediately, to ascertain the details of the claims by RMAFC. Transparency and due process require that matters of this nature follow the necessary channels of financial expenditure. To have withdrawn such astonishing amount without records as stated by RMAFC smacks of fraud.

We note that this is not the first time the RMAFC is reporting such disregard to existing rules and regulations guiding the withdrawal of monies from a common pool such as the Federation Account or the Consolidated Revenue Fund. This flagrant disobedience to due process and openness was a common occurrence during the administration of erstwhile President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.

At the twilight of that administration, we recall that the RMAFC alerted the nation of some untoward happenings in the management of the nation’s finances. But nothing concrete was done to stop them. In one instance, the commission found that in the past, some illegal funds were set up into which revenue accruing to the federal government were paid into, and withdrawn at will.

We recommend that henceforth, strict enforcement of the provisions of the constitution must be followed to check such abuse of established processes. Both the National Assembly and the state legislatures need to do a lot in this regard.

The beauty of democracy is that each arm of government checks the perceived excesses of the other arm. When this is done, following laid down procedures, the country is the better for it.