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TSA implementation And Matters Arising

There has recently been a lot of dust raised on account of the call by Ms. Priti Patel, a former UK Secretary of State for International Development to investors to be wary of investing in Nigeria on account of the country’s woeful records of respect for contracts.

The Nigerian presidency has taken very serious exception to Ms. Patel’s “attack”, and understandably gone to town with stories that shows it’s wholly committed to the rule of law and demonstration of mega respect for contracts. The Government may probably not have taken things so seriously if national elections were not just a few weeks away and would not allow any “foreigner” paint it in bad light before those who are looking for any and every reason not to return the Government of the day to power.

Nigerian presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu was quick to fire back to defend “Nigeria’s honour” by saying Ms. Patel’s proposition was wicked and lacking in substance.

To give strength to his defense, the spokesperson gave examples of the often touted successes of the PMB Government which include the Treasury Single Account (TSA), Integrated Payroll & Personnel Information System (IPPIS) and Bank Verification Number (BVN). It is however instructive to note that none of these initiatives was initiated by the PMB Government. The BVN initiative, by the way was an entirely-private sector conceived and funded initiative by Nigerian Banks when the Government-led National Identity project was taking forever. That is however a story for another day.

Garba Shehu’s response may however have further played the country into the hands of Ms. Patel and her ilks on account of the now stale hoarse repeat of the success PMB has made of TSA, IPPIS and BVN actually reflect the real issues Ms. Patel was trying to draw attention to.

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It may therefore be interesting to draw attention to some not-so-interesting things about some of the successes the PMB Government continues to pull out of the magic hat every time it wants to state its achievements in the anti-corruption realm.

The governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had in November 2015 publicly on TV denied the existence of a contract for the provision of Technology services for the FGN’s TSA scheme. It was with consternation Nigerians watched his red face when he was subsequently confronted by the Nigerian Senate with a 2011 and 2013 updated contract signed by the CBN for the provision of TSA Payment Gateway Technology.

The CBN’s governor lame excuse after the public show of shame was that the contracts were not brought to his attention when he resumed duties as the CBN Governor! Is this not sufficient grounds for Ms. Patel and her cohorts to gloat?

Do you think PMB knows about this?

Despite the continued claims of successful TSA implementation and its curbing of corruption by PMB’s Government, the presidential mandate for the full implementation of TSA continues to be flouted as different MDAs led by the ever creative and evil ingenious civil servants and their political backers have found back doors to escape the grip of the TSA.

This came to light at the recent house of Reps sitting on TSA where it was discovered that some MDAs were surreptitiously keeping government funds with commercial banks while some went into other arrangements under different guises to bypass TSA guidelines on disbursement and collection of government revenue. Some of these MDAs include Customs, Police, Immigration, FRSC, INEC, Some Federal Universities, etc.

More importantly, the House of Reps probe revealed that some powerful forces have continued to hold back the implementation of the forex component of the TSA and that the old order of high wired corruption still continues despite the 100 per cent TSA success claims by the likes of the Information Minister and presidential spokesperson.

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Nothing seems to validate Ms. Patel’s position more than the unraveling by the House of Reps Committee set up to investigate TSA operations that whereas PMB’s Government was celebrating TSA success from the rooftops, it had flagrantly refused to pay the Banks and contracted technology contractors who were providing services for a period of over two (2) years. As at the last check, according to a release by the Accountant General of the Federation, this was in excess of N16 Billion Naira!

Who does that? You deny a contract. You later agree it exists. Then you go ahead to ignore its terms while enjoying services and then do not hesitate to tell anyone who cares to know that you’re a respecter of contracts and faithful in keeping your obligations. Who does public naming ceremony with the father of the bride in attendance without first paying dowry?

More worrisome is the unveiling at the House of Reps sitting of the fact that the president actually gave an order of the fees to be charged and instructed that all outstanding payments should be made but that some “powers that be” within the system (like the princes of Persia) have made this impossible until now.

This is surely a sad testimony of how Government should not be doing business. We simply do not need Ms. Patel to tell us this.

Definitely, PMB does not know there are civil servants and their backers who can and continue to defy his direct instructions. Who will tell the president that he does not know this?

Most brazen of all which beats all imaginations is the fact that PMB may simply be unaware that the cost of TSA operations has now been pushed to citizens. Whereas the Government does not push the cost of software or its maintenance to citizens, the cost of maintaining the TSA system has now been pushed to already impoverished citizens.

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Whereas on one hand, petrol subsidy which has nothing to do with Government operations continues to be borne by Government, it is unexplainable how citizens are now being forced to pay additional money anytime they want to pay into Government’s coffers.  Is it that there was no budget for TSA implementation or that some people in Government have cornered the multi-billions allocated to it in the 2017 and 2018 budgets?

It would be nice to know how this indiscretion was presented to Mr. President (if at all) and under what influence he approved its implementation.

So, should we assume PMB is unaware of the pains of the citizens and that is why he agreed that they be slammed this additional hardship?

The way this Government touts TSA, BVN and IPPIS at every turn you would think all these terms were first conceived and implemented in Nigeria of any other place in the world.

TSA is a prescription of the World Bank as an efficient cash asset management and many other countries have implemented it successfully without making any fuss.

One just hopes PMB is aware that countries like Rwanda, Egypt, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Zambia and even Ghana have implemented TSA and are benefitting from it without any noise. Please who will tell PMB that Nigeria did not invent and does not hold a patent to TSA?

–Oniga wrote in from Abuja

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