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Audit Query: Customs was broke – Ali explains non redemption of employees’ 5% pension

Written by Maritime First

…Says Buhari saved the Service via inclusion in CSS***

The Comptroller-General of Customs, Retd. Col.  Hameed Ali on Thursday, revealed that Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) was hitherto broke, but for President Muhammadu Buhari’s service inclusion in the Consolidated Salary Structure (CSS) regime, there would have been serious financial challenges by now.

Ali stated this in Abuja, while offering explanation to the 2015 audit report which generated a query over NCS non remittance of five per cent pension redemption bond, of its employees, despite the boasts of  meeting and beating annual revenue targets.

According to him, when he took over as the Head of Customs, the agency depended on bailout to carry out its operations, as a result of paucity of fund.

Comptroller General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd)

 

He said the paucity of fund to the service explained why the service could not remit the five per cent pension redemption bond of its employees.

Ali emphasised that the seven per cent collection costs which the NCS deducted from revenue generated had not been enough to settle the personnel costs of staff members; and posited that not until President Muhammadu Buhari approved its inclusion in the Consolidated Salary Structure (CSS), was the NCS able to offset some of its financial commitments.

The Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation (OAGF) had in its 2015 audit report of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), presented Mr Anthony Ayine to senate raised a query to NCS as follows:

“On non compliance to provision of Pension Act 2014 retirement benefit redemption bond.

“During the examination of retirement pension redemption fund, it was also noted that the Nigeria Customs Service and Federal Inland Revenue Service were not contributing five cent monthly wage bill of their employees’ fund contrarily to section 39 sub section 2.

“These two organisations ought to contribute five per cent monthly wage bill of their employees since their personnel cost does not fall part of the normal budget.

“The non contribution by these organisations is in violation of the Pension Reform Act. 2014,” Ayine said.

The query arose during the public hearing of the 2015 audited accounts of federal government agencies organised by the Senate Committee on Public Accounts

Chairman of the Committee, Sen. Matthew Urhoghide (PDP- Edo) raised a concern over the failure of NCS to remit five per cent retirement bond of its employees as indicated in the audit report of 2015.

He said the refusal of the Customs leadership to abide by the constitutional provisions of the Pension Act, with regard to the pension of personnel simply implied that the retirees of the service had not been receiving their pensions.

Sen. Matthew Urhoghide (PDP- Edo)

Also speaking, Sen. Ibrahim Oloriegbe (APC-Kwara), said that the money should have been remitted to the National Pension Commission (PenCom) given the payment of staff monthly salary by NCS.

Oloriegbe lamented that a revenue generating agency such as NCS should have no reason to fail to remit the five per cent pension retirement bond of staff wages to PenCom.

He urged NCS authority to look for where to raise money to remit the five per cent to PenCom.

But in his response to the query, the Customs Comptroller-General , Retd. Col.  Hameed Ali, explained that the NCS had been facing the challenge of insufficient fund.

He said the paucity of fund to the service explained why the service could not remit the five per cent pension redemption bond of its employees.

Ali said that the seven per cent collection costs which the NCS deducted from revenue generated had not been enough to settle the personnel costs of staff members, hence, Service dependent on bailout to carry out its operations.

He explained that while the fund for salary of staff members was being deducted directly from the seven per cent commission, that of pension redemption bond was not directly deducted.

He, however, assured the senate that with the inclusion of Customs into the CSS of the federal government, the service would be able to commence remittances of backlog of the five per cent to PenCom.

He stressed that it would not be wise to remove five per cent from the seven per cent commission and pay as pension, given that the remaining two per cent would not be enough to pay workers salary.

Responding also to the query of non remittances of its revenue collections by the Accountant-General of the Federation (AGF), the Customs boss expressed surprise over the query.

He said he was just getting to hear of the query given that NCS collections and remittances had been automated since 2015, hence the issue of under remittances could not have arisen.

On the N4.5 billion loan to the Customs, which was given to them as loan from the N37 billion special fund for local production of rice, he said he was just hearing about the loan for the first time.

Also read:  Customs Comptroller-General to sack officers living above earnings

Although he said it could be part of the bailout out fund given to NCS by the government he, however, insisted that the NCS did not have any record of any loan from anybody.

However, in a swift reaction to the CGC’s explanation, an industry watcher has tasked newsmen to seek further clarification on Ali’s position, saying the explanation was confusing.

“Is the CGC confusing the 5 percent of salary package with a 5 percent of the entire pool of its 7 percent collection?”, one importer asked, noting that the Customs Service had not been genuinely forthcoming in the area of corporate welfare in recent times, despite consistently exceeding annual revenue targets.

“Customs earned far less under his predecessor (Dikko Inde Abdullahi), yet built barracks, quarters, rehabilitated its personnel caught in drug abuse and created the mind blowing edifice in Gwagwalada called Regional Customs Training Centre! What indelible footprint is the present management striving to leave behind?”, he further asked, speaking on conditions of anonymity.

 

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Maritime First