Jonathan, Okonjo-Iweala mismanaged ECA funds - FRC boss

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

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Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former Finance Minister
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former Finance Minister

Raymond Omachi, the acting chairman of Fiscal Responsibility Commission (FRC) has stated that the past administration led by Goodluck Jonathan and its Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala mismanaged funds in the Excess Crude Account (ECA).

Although Omachi did not mention names, he frowned at the practice of the federal government to pay subsidy from the ECA or to share to states from the ECA when available funds are not adequate to meet revenue projections.

He said that the ECA was established in 2004 to protect planned budget against shortfalls due to volatile crude oil prices, but that was not how the funds from the account were spent today.

“If the ECA had been properly managed, in accordance with the FRC act, the country will not have been embroiled in the liquidity crisis being presently experienced,” he said on Sunday in Abuja during an interactive session with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).

Omachi said that the FRC Act stated that savings from the ECA should not be accessed until oil price falls below the predetermined level for a period of three consecutive months.

He said that the sum accessed should be limited to the amount that would bring the revenue of government to the level contained in its budget estimates.

Omachi, supported by the commission’s management team, said also that the other acceptable withdrawal from the ECA was to fund capital projects.

He said that over the years, the commission had noticed withdrawal that was contrary to this and had raised alarm severally at the way the ECA was being brazenly depleted.

“In essence, the non-compliance with the relevant sections of the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007, is the cause of the financial management problem being experienced by the country in the light of the sliding oil price.

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“If the account had been intact, the effect of declining oil price will have been accommodated with the ECA buffer to finance the budget,” he said.

Hajiya Maryam Mohammed, the Commission’s Head, Planning, Research and Statistics, said there was need for synergy between the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget Office, Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation and FRC.

Mohammed said that this would enable efficient monitoring and control of all revenue generation and expenditure in the country.

She said that it was lack of synergy that has created loopholes where revenue generating agencies practice creative accounting in order to short-change the government.

Speaking, the Head, Monitoring and Evaluation, FRC, Mr Ola Tijanni, said the recommendation of the Orunsaya report and the White Paper approval to scrap FRC was hampering the work of the commission.

“The FRC has been monitoring schedule corporations in the area of preparation of MTEF, rendition of audited accounts and payment of 80 per cent of their operating surplus to the government consolidated revenue fund.

“In 2013, due to acceptance of government to scrap the FRC, remittances of operating surplus rather than increase, dropped drastically as most agencies are no longer disposed to cooperating with the FRC.

“In light of the foregoing, we make bold to suggest that rather than being scrapped, the FRC should be strengthened and empowered to diligently enforce the provision of the FRC Act,” he said.

It would be recalled that Governor Nasir El Rufai of Kaduna state also stated that the ECA was created by the government of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo for the ‘rainy days’.

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