New Telegraph

Penalties: RMAFC, EFCC, DSS battle FRC over amendment Act

Committee to present  ndings after recess

There is an ongoing plot by some influential agencies of the government currently lobbying the National Assembly to reject a proposal before it seeking, among others, to amend the Fiscal Responsibility Commission’s Act and grant the agency power to penalise erring chief executives of ministries, department and agencies. A senior official of governmentt, who confided in New Telegraph, said that the agencies, which for whatever reasons are feeling threatened should such power to prosecute is granted to FRC, had started a subtle move to dissuade the National Assembly from endorsing the Act currently pending before the upper chamber of the National Assembly. Findings revealed that the amendment seeks to enhance the powers of the commission beyond what is described as ‘its current toothless bulldog’ status to one that enables it to bark and bite.

Hearing had been conducted on the Act, it was learnt. Speaking to New Telegraph on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the issue, a Presidency source said that the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Department of Security Services (DSS) did not want the Fiscal Commission Act amendment for various reasons.

“As for the RMAFC man, he cited Steve Orasanya’s Committee report streamlining MDAs. The issue is that during Steve Orasanya’s committee on MDAs, there was a white paper suggesting scrapping of Fiscal Responsibility Commission, and a provision for agency’s staff to be sent to Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission.

“Based on that, RMAFC came with its own position paper that they shouldn’t amend our Act; they shouldn’t give us power to prosecute until the government finalises with the issue contained in Orasanya’s committee. “You need to be there to see how people shouted at him.

The civil society groups, the stakeholders shouted at him. They told him, you can’t keep us for a long time because of your selfish interest. They told him that if they are going to implement the white paper, that the amendments of our Act will favor his commission. “Government is losing heavily on the aspect of revenue remittance by MDAs for lack of enforcement power to the fiscal commission.

“For EFCC and DSS, they were against FRC in their postion papers. They said the commission shouldn’t be given the right to arrest and prosecute. That what the FRC ought to do is to carry out investigation and hand over to them to finalize it. “There were instant attacks on them on the premise of many cases in their custody which they had yet to finalise. Pointedly, both DSS and EFCC were advised to steer clear of fiscal policy cases.

They were told they had loads of cases currently at their disposal. Thank God, they are beginning to know the importance of fiscal commission and the import of our Act. But I can tell you these interest groups are not relenting. They are lobbying,” he said. Speaking to the importance of having effective and well funded Fiscal Responsibility Commission as against the current state of affairs at the agency, the source said the on- going Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) for budget 2022- 2024 offered the National Assembly members to appreciate the work of the commission in fiscal policy and budget implementation. He said for the time, staff of FRC were working with members of the National Assembly on the document. “Thank God, they are beginning to know the importance of fiscal commission and the import of our Act.

The ongoing MTEF has clearly shown the commission’s importance in budget implementation because the agency’s staff are there. They are working hand in hand with the committe on finance at the National Assembly. “That’s part of the whole essence, trying to make use of the commission’s Act, trying to put things together. The president has promised to present the full budget in September, which is in line with FRC Act.

“Unlike before, during tenure of former President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, when budget was presented around December period, which will linger to the following year, this time, the January – to December budget circle is a sacrosanct,” he disclosed. Contacted for confirmation, FRC Head, Strategic Communications Directorate, Mr. Bede Ogueri Anyanwu, who said he was not aware of some agencies being against the Act, however, confirmed via chat that “the bill has passed the public hearings and both houses are in recess for now. “Hopefully, the committee will present their findings from the public hearings to the larger house by the time they resume from recess.” The 2007 Fiscal Responsibility Bill, when amended and finally passed, will enhance the functions of the commission in the following specific ways, disseminate such standard practices including international good practice that will result in greater efficiency in the allocation and management of public expenditure, revenue collection, debt control and transparency in fiscal matters, among others.

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