Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, has informed the Senate that a new Finance bill was on its way to the National Assembly, stressing that it will not come with any increase in VAT or taxes.
“We have a Finance Bill ready. There will not be any increase in VAT or taxes. We see 2021 as a year of recovery,” she said.
The Senate raised the issues with the Minister of Finance especially about the poor funding of agencies under her direct supervision.
The Minister informed the lawmakers that the situation was consistent with global economic realities of Covid-19 and scare resources.
On the specific case of the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, AGF, Ahmed said the Ministry of Finance cannot be seen to be giving itself preferential treatment.
She said her Ministry provided envelop for all the various MDAs, using some objective criteria and that it was left to each of them to decide how best to use its allocation.
On the projection of $40 benchmark price for crude oil in the 2021 budget; the Minister said Nigeria’s plan has suffered a bit of setback in the heat of a second wave of Covid-19 pandemic in Europe.
The Senate on Thursday asked the AGF, Ahmed Idris, to immediately come up with an accounting software application that will enable the government to monitor revenues online in real-time.
The Senate through its Committee on Finance asked the AGF to work out the modalities and include the cost in the budget for his office for 2021.
The Senate panel queried the AGF after it discovered that he has been making a deduction of 25% directly and on monthly basis from the revenue of some agencies not remitting into the Federation Account.
The panel noted that such action clearly violates the extant laws.
Speaking, Chairman of the Senate Committee, Solomon Olamilekan, said such procedure will require the amendment of the Fiscal Responsibility Act.
He, therefore, requested the AGF to ensure that the amendment was included in the proposed Finance Bill 2021 the executive plan to forward to the National Assembly.
On revenue payment platform, the Senate Panel called for multiple payment platforms that will serve as alternative to “Remitta”.
According to the Chairman, the Senate is anxious to work with the Office of the Accountant General to bring onboard new players and end the current monopoly of Remitta.
“There have been complaints about Remitta. This is one area we want to work with you. With the volume of money; having only one payment platform will not suffice.
“We need more platforms that are formidable. Remitta has been there from 6- 10 years and has been collecting commissions running into billions of Naira,” he said.
Also speaking, Senator Patrick Akinyelure (PDP), Ondo State, agreed that Remitta has failed. He called for a new arrangement that will assign operators on a sectoral basis.
The Senate Committee rejected the proposed 2021 budget of N483 million for the Office of the AGF, which it said was grossly inadequate for the office that warehouses Nigeria’s revenues.
The AGF said what he submitted to the Budget Office was larger but it returned in an “envelop” sealing.
The complaint was the same for the Fiscal Responsibility Commission, who said it may not be able to pay their staff salaries for November and December.