Who is afraid of the TSA?

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Enforcing the implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) has been described as a master stroke of the President Muhammadu Buhari led government.

A few months ago, the minister of Information, Lai Mohammed remarked that it was the TSA that saved Nigeria from imminent collapse as the country plunged into a hard-biting recession.

Even though the policy continues to be lauded because of its local content leaning and efforts at streamlining government financial processes and stamping out corruption, TSA seems to be misunderstood by a lot of Nigerians.

More revelations about the potentials of the TSA came to light when the Accountant General of the Federation, Mr Ahmed Idris said the Federal Government has saved a total of N108 billion in bank charges since inception of the initiative. This is due to over N 4 billion saved monthly from what could have been bank charges if the over 20,000 accounts of MDAs had continued to be maintained with commercial banks.

Despite its many widely acclaimed successes at minimizing wastage, saving government needless borrowing, improving fiscal decision and curbing corruption, the policy, however, seems to be at risk.

Dec 12 to Dec 13, 2017 was another set of hearings by the House of Representative committee investigating proceeds of the TSA, under the leadership of honourable Abubakar Danburam-Nuhu where a couple of issues and loopholes through which disgruntled entities can sabotage the policy were revealed.

It was discovered that some government agencies have not been remitting funds into the TSA while some are still operating hidden accounts in commercial banks.  It was also discovered that some banks are still holding on to public funds amounting to about N50 billion in violation of the TSA policy. The committee has mandated banks to declare all government accounts with them and remit the funds to the TSA.

It was also unearthed that dispute in a pilotage service agreement between Intels logistics and the NPA has led to the company keeping all forex revenue running into hundreds of millions of dollars collected on behalf of the NPA in its own account rather than deducting its commission and remitting the balance into the TSA.

The House committee ordered Intels to declare the total revenue it has collected for the NPA and associated interest so it can determine how much needs to be immediately remitted into TSA.   This kind of ambiguity reduces the effectiveness of the TSA policy, constitutes a leak and must be resolved as soon as possible.

Considered as very unfair and non-defendable was the discovery by the committee that the provider of the TSA payment technology who happens to be an indigenous company as well as the commercial and microfinance banks who process funds into the TSA have not been paid for services for almost two years. According to the chairman, the non-payment of the contracted fees for services rendered does not paint government in a good colour.

Lastly, it is strange that for the past six years, focus has only been on the local TSA component without any serious attempt to implement the foreign component. Without the implementation of the foreign component there’s really no TSA as government would still not be able to have a complete view of all its total cash assets at any point in time. Until this is achieved, Nigeria cannot claim it has successfully implemented TSA.

If the Federal government is serious about sustaining the gains and ensuring full implementation of TSA, these pertinent issues must be urgently addressed. It is time to move beyond mere propaganda to ensure the very purpose for which the TSA journey was embarked on since 2011 is full achieved by the current administration.

By Ahmed Bilikisu

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