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NEITI calls for probe of TETFUND over alleged questionable financial practices

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The Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) wants the federal government to immediately carry out a comprehensive audit of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND).

NEITI said the agency received N993.3billion from the Federation Account between 2012 and 2016 but “does not have a comprehensive accounting and operational manual.”

The immediate audit of the agency was one of the key recommendations in a report based on the NEITI Fiscal Allocation and Statutory Disbursement (FASD) Audit for the period 2012 to 2016 published a fortnight ago.

NEITI said the recommendation followed the finding by its audit team that the agency lacked comprehensive accounting and operational manual to guide its accounting and operations processes.

In its reaction to the report, TETFUND denied the possibility of not having guidelines for the financial and other aspects of its operations. It made reference to its annual report, which it said contains information on all its operations.

The TETFUND is an educational fund established with the mandate to administer the two per cent education tax imposed on profit-making taxable companies registered and doing business in Nigeria.

A Board of Trustees constituted to manage the Fund was charged with the responsibility of utilizing the oil and gas and non-oil and gas revenues from companies to rehabilitate, develop and improve the quality of tertiary education in the country.

The beneficiaries of the funds are the educational institutions in the country, including universities, colleges of education, polytechnics, monotechnics, federal and state ministries of education, commissions, state primary and secondary education boards.

Others are staff training and development agencies, libraries, ICT, capacity building, sports, book development, research, vocational training, police and paramilitary agencies.

The Executive Council of the Federation in December 2012 approved an audit of revenue receipts and disbursements from the Federation Account to relevant agencies including TETFUND.

Between the 2012 and 2016, NEITI said total revenues received by the TETFUND from the Federation Account for its operations was about N993.3billion. About N804.9 billion came from mineral revenue sources and N188.5 billion from non-mineral sources.

Details of the revenues showed in 2012, the Fund got N188.4 billion. The amount received in 2013 increased by 48 per cent to N279.2 billion, while the figure following year (2014) dropped by a similar percentage margin to N189.6 billion.

In 2015, NEITI said the revenue allocated to the Fund increased by 8 per cent to N206 billion and then reduced to about N130 billion in 2016, a 37 per cent reduction.

NEITI findings showed Board of Trustees of the Fund utilized the allocations for the provision of essential physical infrastructure for teaching and learning, instructional materials and equipment a as well as researches and publications.

Also, the funds were also used for academic staff training and development, in addition to other needs that the agency considered critical and essential for the improvement of quality and maintenance of standards in the higher educational institutions.

However, NEITI said its audit team was unable to verify the populated templates submitted to TETFUND because its top officials were uncooperative.

“Letters of introduction by NEITI were not honoured by the agency on two different occasions,” the consultants involved in the audit said in the final report.

“A letter dated 10 April 2016, and another letter acknowledged as received on 8 June 2018 from NEITI were delivered to TETFUND.

“In both cases, we were informed the Executive Secretary had not yet given his permission for us to come and review the submitted templates, and so we were not granted permission to validate the templates,” the consultant said.

In its final report published a fortnight ago, NEITI said one of its key findings during the audit was that the “Fund does not have a comprehensive accounting and operational manual. Hence, there is insufficient guide for accounting and operations’ processes.”

Following the uncooperative attitude of its top officials, NEITI said its audit team was “unable to verify the income received from the various sources by the agency, and unable to evaluate the utilization of the funds.”

Consequently, the transparency agency recommended a comprehensive audit of the Fund to be carried out by the federal government without delay.

The agency also called on the government to tackle the issue of undue political control and interference by state governors in the execution of the Education Trust Fund-funded projects in their respective states.

“There is need to educate the governors on ETF intervention policies, which are rooted in accountability and standards and are performance-driven.

“Intervention, beneficiaries with accumulated un-accessed funds should be allowed to merge all their outstanding allocations and propose projects to be funded with the backlog of funds,” the NEITI report said.

The other recommendations included the need to explore the possibility of developing prototypes for adoption by beneficiaries, to maintain standards and uniformity in projects they execute, and to minimize the challenges posed by un-accessed funds.

In addition, it called for the re-examination of the Fund’s intervention policies, and to modify them where necessary.

But TETFUND spokesperson Gbenga Arolasafe reportedly denied the report.

“I want you to know that we (TETFUND) have our Annual Reports up to date. Even the 2018 Annual Report is already being published.

“So, it will be difficult to understand how any entity will claim our financial records, which are in the Annual Report, were not available,” Arolasafe said in a text message in response to our reporter’s inquiry on Sunday.

Apart from the income and expenditure of the Fund and other financials, Arolasafe said the annual report covers all information the NEITI audit team would have wanted on other aspects of its operations from the beginning to the end of the year.

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National dailies: 10 things to know this Wednesday morning

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Good morning! Here is today’s TIMELY POST bulletin from Nigerian Newspapers:

  1. The Debt Management Office has said that Nigeria public debt stands at N25.7trn up by N3.32trn in one year as at the end of June 2019. It also said that while the Federal Government owed N20.42trn as at June 30, 2019, the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory debt portfolio stood at N5.28trn.
  2. National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), has said the renewal of the National Identity Card will cost three thousand naira (N3,000) as well as charging the sum of N5,000 for card replacement payable through remita. This, however, drew angry reactions from Nigerians, who described the new policy as wicked and callous on the side of the government.
  3. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has projected that Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth will remain weak in 2019. The fund stated this in its World Economic Outlook (WEO) for October 2019, released at the ongoing IMF/World Bank Annual Meetings in Washington DC.
  4. Chairman, Senate Committee on Army, Senator Ali Ndume, has faulted the N99.87 billion capital expenditure allocation for Ministry of Defence in the 2020 national budget. Ndume said that the amount is less than one percent of the N10.33 trillion budget proposal for 2020 fiscal year. The lawmaker noted that the country is in a war and if such ‘paltry sum’ is presented for the entire defence and not just the Army, it shows that the federal government is not serious about ending the insurgency war.
  5. The meeting between the organised labour and representatives of the Federal Government have been moved till Wednesday, Oct. 16, to allow for sorting out of all grey areas of contention. It was gathered that the organised labour had shifted its earlier position from 29 per cent to 25 per cent for grade levels seven to 14, while for levels 15 to 17 now 20 per cent, which was earlier 24 percent.
  6. Nigeria Senate President, Dr Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan on Tuesday announced President Muhammadu Buhari’s request for approval of N10 billion for Kogi State. In the letter, Buhari said, the amount was expended on projects on behalf of the Federal government which he was seeking the refund through promissory notes and bonds. The letter also explained that 23 other states with authorised expenditures on behalf of the Federal government have been previously refunded, noting that Kogi State would be refunded on prompt approval of the Parliament.
  7. The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has kicked against President Muhammadu Buhari decision to seek the permission of the Senate to approve over N10bn for Kogi State. PDP called on the National Assembly to invoke its statutory powers and directly channel the N10.069 billion Presidential funds for payment of salaries and pensions of suffering Kogi State workers. The party said it was scandalous that Buhari Presidency, with its claims of transparency and integrity, would seek to mislead the National Assembly by asserting that the fund is for projects done by the state government on behalf of the Federal Government.
  8. Senate President Ahmad Lawan has declared the Federal Government would be $1.5billion richer next year following the passage of the Deep Offshore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contract (PSC) (Amendment) Bill by the Senate.
  9. Chairman of the Senate committee on Army, Senator Ali Ndume, has disclosed that a total of 847 Nigerian soldiers had lost their lives to the Boko Haram insurgency in the last six years. Ndume said the Army high command gave the casualty figures to the committee last Thursday.
  10. The Senate has adjourned plenary for two weeks to engage Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) in defence of their 2020 budget. The President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan announced the adjournment during Tuesday’s plenary.

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Labour, FG meeting ongoing for final resolution over new minimum wage implementation

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The meeting between the organised labour and representatives of the Federal Government has been moved till Wednesday, Oct. 16, to allow for sorting out of all grey areas of contention.

A top labour official, who pleaded anonymity, hinted that the organised labour had shifted its earlier position from 29 per cent to 25 per cent for grade levels seven to 14, while for levels 15 to 17 now 20 per cent, which was earlier 24 per cent.

The Federal Government has made its earlier position to shift from levels seven to nine to 17 per cent and levels 10 to 14 at 15 per cent.

It also shifted that of levels 15 to 17 to 12 per cent.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that the organised labour is demanding 29 per cent salary increase for officers on salary levels 07 to 14 and 24 per cent adjustment for officers on salary grade levels 15 to 17.

But the Federal Government had presented a proposal of 11 per cent salary increase for officers on grade levels 07 to 14 and 6.5 per cent adjustment for workers of grade levels 15 to 17.

At a meeting in Abuja, the Head of Service, Mrs Folashade Yemi-Esan, expressed hope that the meeting would get to a logical conclusion when it reconvenes on Wednesday.

“Today, the Labour side has discovered that there is just one side on the welfare of workers, we have worked very well together today.

“Both sides have made a lot of contentions, but we discovered that there are some grey areas that need to be ironed out.

“Some documents and information are being sourced that they are providing, by the grace of God tomorrow, discussion will continue and we believe that we will be able to get everything resolved.”

Speaking the end of the meeting, Deputy President of NLC, Comrade Amaechi Asugwuni, who spoke on behalf of the organised Labour, urged to the Federal Government to shift grounds for agitation ahead.

According to him, the matter is a straight forward matter, negotiations is ongoing we actually thought the meeting will be concluded today but that prediction was not successful, therefore, adjournment became necessary.

” To the best of our knowledge, the struggle will still continue, tommorow, we will meet by 2p.m, and that meeting will determine the fate of the parties, we expect that we close that meeting positively.

“So far, commitment has been shown, but we believe that the areas that are still in contest are critical, therefore, we urge the government also on their part see how they can shift ground positively to integrate the agitations ahead.”

Those at the meeting include: the NLC General Secretary, Comrade Emma Ugboaja, Musa Lawal Ozigi of the TUC, Nuhu Toro (TUC) Lawal Alade Bashir as well as Comrade Musa Abbas while in attendance at the meeting with the Joint National.

Others are: Director General of the Budget Office, Ben Akabueze, Acting Chairman of the National Salaries Income and Wages Commission, Ekpo Nta.

Labour had resorted to the strike option, from Oct. 17, following an apparent inability of the government and labour to find a way out of the minimum wage logjam.

The minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, said there is the need for organised labour to set the records straight to workers to understand that current economic realities may not accommodate percentage increase on the minimum wage.

According to him, continued threat of strike action from the organised labour was an intimidation of government and antithetical to the International Labour Organisation principles on negotiations and Collective Bargaining Agreement.

“I will also not seat and watch labour intimidate government. If you dangle strike, it is intimidation and ILO Convention does not permit it.

“People should negotiate freely. If government threatens you in the course of negotiation, it is intimidation.

“We cannot allow government to shut down the economy because it wants to pay salaries and wages.

“The 2020 budget of N10.3trillion has N3.8trillion as personnel cost without overhead.

“If you add running cost and other incidental costs, the total recurrent budget as presented to the National Assembly has taken 76 per cent. Where do we get the money to build roads, airport, rails, health centres, schools etc.

“It is a matter of balancing a budget that is 76 per cent recurrent and 24 per cent capital, for me, it is nothing to cheer about.

“In the 76 per cent, government has captured N200 billion for consequential adjustment for the minimum wage and so on. These are all part of personnel.

“N160 billion is for consequential adjustment of the minimum wage and not total package of workers’ salaries. Everybody has to make sacrifice. We must plug leakages.”

He stressed the need for all workers to be incorporated into the Integrated Payroll Personnel Information System (IPPIS) to reduce ghost workers in the public service.

“The number of workers, 1.4 million or 1.5 million out of 200 million people take 33 per cent of the budget which has deficit. It is important we know this. It is up to us to use all the money to pay salaries and the economy will grind to a halt and be like Venezuela.”

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Buhari seeks N10bn approval from Senate for Kogi

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Nigeria Senate President, Dr Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan on Tuesday announced President Muhammadu Buhari’s request for approval of N10 billion for Kogi State.

In the letter, Buhari said, the amount was expended on projects on behalf of the Federal government which he was seeking the refund through promissory notes and bonds.

The letter also explained that 23 other states with authorised expenditures on behalf of the Federal government have been previously refunded, noting that Kogi State would be refunded on prompt approval of the Parliament.

“I am seeking approval of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for N10 billion being expenditures on projects executed in Kogi State on behalf of the Federal government. ”

“Take note also that the said expenditure was authorised by the Federal Government which other 23 States of the Federation have also been refunded.”

Senate President, Dr Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan referred the letter to Senate Committee on Foreign loans and debts to turn in report in two weeks.

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