Sunday Aborisade, Abuja
The Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Col. Hameed Ali (retd.), on Thursday disagreed with the Accountant-General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, over the N28bn allegedly under-remitted into the Federation Account in 2015.
Ali and Idris appeared before the Senate Public Accounts Committee to address the panel over the audit query issued to the Accountant General Office by the Auditor-General of the Federation, Anthony Ayine.
Ayine had in his Financial Statement for 2015 asked the Accountant-General to explain the differentials in the amount remitted by the Customs Service and the figures contained in his own records.
The audited report showed that the NCS remitted N185bn as against N157bn in the Accountant-General’s document.
The Accountant-General who was represented by a director in his office, Feyintola Olusegun, had earlier referred the Auditor-General and the Senate Panel to the NCS for clarification.
The NCS boss while appearing before the Senator Matthew Uroghide-led SPAC on Thursday absolved his agency of any wrongdoing.
Ali said the query was strange to the service because the mode of Customs collections was purely automated.
The Accountant-General therefore said the N28bn was for ECOWAS Stabilisation Fund for 2015.
The members of the panel said the Accountant-General’s latest explanations did not reflect in his earlier written submission to the Senate Panel.
He was also unable to provide documentary evidence to back up his claim.
On the query of non-remittance of pension fund, Ali admitted that his command defaulted in 2015 because it did not have sufficient funds to meet up with the obligation.
But the Accountant-General was asked to explain the N37.8bn borrowed from the 10 per cent Rice Level Account for urgent expenditure in 2013.
The Senate Panel asked why the Accountant General had failed to include the loan in the budget since then.
The Customs Service benefitted N4.5bn from the said loan.
Other beneficiaries of the unpaid loan are the Independent National Electoral Commission, PHCN, and NIMCOMSAT.
The Senate panel, however, asked the Accountant General to come forward with details of the loan that could help it conclude its probe.
The Chairman of the Senate panel expressed disappointment with the MDAs over their inability to defend audit queries issued to them.
Urhogide lamented that for over five years, many MDAs hadn’t produced their audited accounts.
He said, “How can we say we are fighting corruption under this situation?
“The Customs Act says you must send in your audited accounts, six months into another financial year.
“We must clear the outstanding unaudited accounts. What the President does with this will tell us how we are fighting corruption.”