Reps invite Okonjo-Iweala, Nenadi Usman, Oronsaye, others over alleged tax certificate forgery by firms
A House of Representatives committee on Tuesday threatened to handover some companies involved in the procurement of pre-shipment inspection contracts, who allegedly forged tax certificates, to anti-graft agencies for prosecution.
The lawmakers also resolved to invite former ministers of finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Nenadi Usman, former Head of Service of the Federation, Steve Oronsaye; former Accountant General of the Federation, Jonah Otunla; and all permanent secretaries of the ministry of finance since 1999 till date.
“They are to come and defend themselves and let us know the various roles they played within the period of their stewardship. The essence of this invitation is to enable the investigative hearing have a balance position on all issues,” the committee chairman, Oluwole Oke, said.
Mr. Oke, Chairman House Committee on Public Procurement, stated this during an interactive session with Kemi Adeosun, Minister of Finance over alleged breach of the Public Procurement Act, 2007.
Mr. Oke, who warned against appointment of portfolio contractors by various Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs, decried the level of evasion of taxes.
“It’s alarming that a company that collected a contract of $120 million only to pay N20,000 as tax to Federal Government, to say the least this is annoying and those are the things this investigative hearing is trying to right.
“We have documents submitted by companies that are in total variance with what FIRS, BPP, NSITF, PenCom and ITF gave us and you all know that our children and sibblings benefit from ITF and if the right amount is not paid how will they get trained.
“Henceforth we will not hesitate to handover such companies to anti-graft agencies,” he said.
The committee also directed Federal Ministry of Finance to provide details of the NESS accounts with the view to ascertain where the operating surplus goes into at the end of each financial year in line with extant financial regulations.
Speaking earlier, Kemi Adeosun, Minister of Finance disclosed that the process of the pre-shipment inspection contract which started in 2016 was ongoing and will soon be concluded.
She said that the exercise was delayed due to the security nature of the pre-shipment inspection contract which involved accessing of oil terminals.
Mrs. Adeosun, however, assured that various issues bothering on tax evasion and abuse of Procurement Act as raised by the Committee will be addressed.
She further noted that the exclusion of some companies was based on security matters adding that the NESS scheme was self-sustaining.
She said: “It’s pertinent to start by stating that the process of procurement of consultants for pre-shipment Inspection and Monitoring of Crude oil and gas export from Nigeria, which the National Assembly is calling for investigation into allegations of abuse, breach and violation of the Procurement Act 2007, is still ongoing.
“The ministry embarked on the procurement process for the appointment of pre-shipment agents and monitoring of oil and gas exports in February, 2016 based on BPP’s approved invitation for expression of interest duly published in two new national dailies and the Federal Tenders journal of February 8, 2016 soliciting expression of interest of bids from competent and reputable consultants for engagement as pre-shipment inspectors and monitors of oil and gas exports.
“A total of 67 companies were pre-qualified out of 166 companies that expressed interest, while 49 companies passed the quality based selection having scored 70 per cent mark and above.
“It’s relevant to reiterate that from the beginning of the procurement process till date, the ministry has been working closely with BPP having obtained necessary approvals including advertisements, Request for Proposal (RfP) and approval to adopt quality based selection method to select the consultants.
“However, there is need to point the following: There was no procurement plan, because the NESS is statutorily self-financing and is not expected to be included in the annual budget, therefore budgetary is not applicable.
“The delay in concluding the procurement of the consultants was because of various procurement processes which include expression of interest, advertisement bid opening bid evaluation, request for proposal, request for certificate of No Objection from BPP,” the minister said.
While ruling, Mr. Oke urged the minister to ensure inter-agencies synergy in the bid to address various issues raised by the committee and the petitioners as well as fix a time frame for the completion of the pre-shipment procurement exercise.
He also directed FIRS to submit details of all taxes paid by the companies involved in the pre-shipment inspection contract, noting that most of them understate their turnovers.