Senate investigation into the alleged N25 billion Treasury Single Account (TSA) has taken a different turn with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF) trading blames.
The CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele and the Accountant General of the Federal (AGF) Ahmed Idris both denied having any knowledge of the 1 per cent approved charge for remittances through REMITA.
Emefiele while responding to questions from committees on Finance; Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions and Committee on Public Accounts, said he personally was not aware of the charge.
The Joint Committee chaired by Sen. John Enoh (PDP Cross River Central) berated the CBN and the OAGF for having agreed to a one per cent charge of remittance.
The committee queried how the government offices which should be experts in the field could claim to not be aware of the huge amounts one per cent will translate to.
However, the CBN boss claimed ignorance of the percentage saying that it was the motion on the floor of the Senate that drew his attention to the charges.
He added that upon immediate investigation and discovery of the amounts involved, he directed the company to immediately refund the fees which they did.
He said that the REMITA platform was only used to transfer about N800 billion before the fees were suspended and the monies already collected asked to be refunded.
“It was after the money was moved from the commercial banks to the CBN that the one per cent was taken.
“However, the monies realized have been put together by the three companies involved and paid back to the MDAs,” he said.
He however stressed that the one per cent charge by the company was too exorbitant.
Emefiele further explained that the company SystemSpec which designed the platform `REMITA’ was to take 50 per cent of the fee while the commercial banks got 40 per cent and the CBN kept the remaining 10.
Reacting to inquests on the agreement signed, the AGF Ahmed Idris however said that he was not aware of any agreement between the CBN, the OAGF and Systemspecs.
Idris said that he had refused to sign the document requesting for payment of the one per cent to the company and as such blamed the CBN for the payment.
“Since my assumption as AGF no monies has been sent via the OAGF.
“There was no agreement between the OAGF and the Central bank, I am not part and my office is not part of this payment.
“We have not engaged anybody and have not paid anybody, I have also said what I know.
“We did not even know how much was charged: if the CBN governor says he does not know, then how will the Accountant General know?,” he queried.
In what may seem like a contradiction, Idris stressed however stressed that the services of the company was highly needed at the time as government did not have the expertise.
For the Managing Director of SystemSpecs, Mr John Obaro said that the use of REMITA did not just commence but started in 2012 with 116 Ministries Departments and Agencies.
He said that the fees were agreed in 2013 by a committee comprising the CBN, OAGF, the banks and SystemSpecs agreed on a price of 2.5 per cent which was reduced to one per cent.
Highlighting the benefits of REMITA, he said that transparency had been increased through the software with provision of online real time account balances of all MDAs.
He said that even officers who approve payments are documented as well as those to whom such payments were made.
He insisted that the company had a valid contract with the CBN and the charges were as agreed.
The MD however said that the OAGF in October expressed worry at the percentage and he stressed that the company did not have any problem with a percentage renegotiation.
He expressed displeasure that the rules of a game could be changed in the middle of a game and a contract rescinded without any explanation.
The Chairman of the joint committee stressed that no matter how much money was involved, one per cent charge was too exorbitant for the job.
He commended all parties who made presentation for opening up and directed that all commercial banks not represented must be present at the next hearing of the committee on the matter.