The House of Representatives’ Committee on Public Accounts has commenced an investigation of the multi-million-dollar debt owed the Federal Government by terminal operators at the nation’s seaports. It is also probing the alleged failure by the Nigerian Port Authority to account for billions of naira accruing to the government under its watch.
As a result, the committee has asked the management of the NPA to explain why it has yet to recover the funds from terminal operators and remit same to the Federation Account.
The Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation had issued 12 audit queries against the NPA based on the authority’s financial statement for the 2019 financial year.
The NPA has responded to only one of the queries which bothers on the terminal operators’ indebtedness to the government to the tune of $852.094m and N1.897bn.
The query quoted the NPA to have said that the sum of N269.410m out of the N1.8bn had been recovered, while N1.6bn “invoices processed on the encumbered areas remain unpaid.”
The NPA said, “The sum of $504,663,452.37 is volume change on fixed lease fee payment by APMT arising from clauses in the concession agreement between NPA and APMT out of the total sum of $852,093,730.77.
“Bills raised on encumbered areas, which remained unpaid is $19,169,459.00: The following has been paid-GMT-$54,707,700.08, unpaid penalties- $11,922,642.68 and unpaid VAT-$28,693,707.07.”
The authority added that “$92,533,518.72 has been recovered, leaving unpaid lease and Throughout Fee in the sum of $139,970,637.71 made up of $113,982,486.82 and $5,988,150.89, respectively.”
The committee, which expressed its dissatisfaction with the response, consequently directed the management of the NPA to come and reconcile their position with that of the OAuGF and provide evidence of remitting the recovered N269.51m and $92.534m to the treasury.
Also, the lawmakers asked the authority to furnish them with a contract agreement/service level agreement, the list of all terminal operators, as well as a comprehensive schedule of lease fees, throughout fees and GMT that make up the total amount owed the government by the operators.
Furthermore, the committee said it would also invite the erring terminal operators to come and justify their reason for not paying the taxes and levies, while the NPA would provide details of community-related issues that hindered concessionaires from accessing the encumbered areas.
The committee, based on outstanding estate rent, shipping due and service boat of N32,266,183,590.8bn and $67,425,429.88, mandated the authority to provide comprehensive lists/details/schedules of debtors, stating the outstanding debts against each of the defaulters.
The Chairman of the committee, Oluwole Oke, said the panel had directed the “NPA to avail us a comprehensive lists /details/schedule of debtors who are owing $27,977,479.97 being shipping and service boat due. The recovered amount and outstanding debt must be stated against the name of each debtor.
“NPA is to avail evidence of remittance of the recovered amount totalling $6,647,297.72 to government coffers. NPA is to provide a schedule of debts with 0-3 years’ age and a list of in-house committees responsible for the recovery.”
The committee is also demanding the current status of legacy debts as well as evidence of remittances of part of the debts to government coffers.