TSA, accountability and Remita

President Muhammadu Buhari has never hidden his passion to fight corruption, believed to be the bane of the nation. In doing this, all loopholes must be blocked while pursuing legal processes to bring looters of public treasury into justice. Capturing the mind of the President is the Honourable Minister of Communications, Barrister Adebayo Shittu, in a speech during an occasion on Tuesday, January 26, where he said: “We all know that ICT is now redefining how we live, how we do business, how services are delivered both in terms of government to government; as well as between government and citizens. “The time has now come to leverage the bountiful opportunities in the communications sector to generate additional revenue for government, now that the prices of oil have been on rapid decline at the international market, create employment for our teaming youths, improve access and enhance quality of service delivery and affordability in the country. Undoubtedly, this will ultimately enhance transparency and good governance in line with our CHANGE agenda on which this government rode into power,” he said. There is no gainsaying the fact that the advent of information technology has changed the global space. When President Buhari directed all government ministries, departments and agencies to immediately join the Treasury Single Account (TSA) scheme with September 15 timeline in 2015, it was greeted with commendations and uncertainty. The TSA is one intervention through which payment and collection is made centrally to the coffers of government. It is worth noting that the company behind this feat is an indigenous company that has been widely misunderstood in view of misconceptions around its earnings. SystemSpecs, fully owned by Nigerians is the copyright owner of Remita, a software designed to provide shared services technology platform for companies, individuals, government agencies and banks to make and receive payment with ease. And through its technology savvy minds, Remita is integrated with all commercial banks in Nigeria including over 500 OFIs, ERP systems and portals of many organisations for the stated purpose. Records indicate that Remita indeed passed through a rigorous processes to beat other firms, comprising of foreign ICT providers, before it was selected to provide the electronic payment technology to power the Federal Government’s TSA initiative. The process, which began in October 2011, included an open, competitive and due process evaluation involving the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF), with support from their foreign consultants. On December 14, 2011, the contract between CBN and SystemSpecs for the provision of Remita as the gateway for the payment and collection of government revenue was inked in an event where the Deputy Director Operations and the Director ICT signed for the CBN while the Executive Directors Business Development and Technology Services signed for SystemSpecs. By January 2012, Remita was deployed to pilot 108 MDAS, and that has grown to over 900 ministries, departments and agencies, together with all commercial banks and over 400 micro finance banks already linked to offer seamless payment to government with ease, both for the payee and government. It is a pride to Nigeria that a fully indigenous software solution, Remita, could be chosen where others failed; and for SystemSpecs to emerge through a transparent process in a lawful and competitive business transaction for unprecedented technology solution deserves some commendations. The Remita story is one that must be encouraged in showing the direction towards the quest for wealth creation via information technology and intellectual property, same as applicable to all development- driven nations of the world. The benefits of Remita is in tandem with the mandate of the present administration in empowering government to electronically track and monitor all inflows and disbursements, thereby enhancing transparency in government business. Specifically, designated officials of government can see the individual balances of all MDAs on a single screen at any time. In addition, Remita has been beneficial in ensuring online validation of receipts whereby designated officers are authorised to confirm any presented online receipt as a way to curtail fake presentation of receipts in government business transactions. In collaboration with other industry players, Remita allows payers to walk into any bank, including the growing micro finance banks in Nigeria, make their cash payment and the TSA domiciled in the CBN is instantly credited. Alternatively, payers can opt to log into the Internet Banking Platform of their banks or use their Visa, Verve, Union or MasterCard to remit payment online. Such can also be made through payers’ Mobile Wallets or at Remita.net, including integrated website of participating MDAs. The second phase for the implementation of the TSA, in line with the contract, started with a meeting of stakeholders and was agreed that a fee of 2.5% be charged by stakeholders. The committee had representatives of the CBN, OAGF, banks and SystemSpecs. The fee was rejected and pegged at 1%. This was contained in a letter written to SystemSpecs from the CBN detailing the renewed contract, together with the sharing ratio of the 1% accruals, SystemSpecs, which is the Platform Providers – 50%, collecting banks – 40% and CBN – 10%. SystemSpecs came to the spotlight due to the accumulated accruals when Buhari ordered the closure of all Federal Government’s accounts held in commercial banks. Remittance prior to that period came in trickles. However, in full compliance with the presidential directive, the surge triggered by massive accrual around September and October 2015 unsettled the contract agreement, making government to demand payback and downward renegotiation of the contract with SystemSpecs. As a result, over N3.8 billion representing 50% of the 1% contracted fee was returned to the CBN in obedience to the instruction of the apex bank through its letter of October 27, 2015. The Remita software is one of the best to happen to the anti-corruption drive of this government, in that it provides a ready working template upon which government is blocking loopholes and conduit pipes from where corruptible public officials drain the nation’s resources. In line with the roadmap clearly mapped out by the Federal Government as contained in the SMART initiative of the Ministry of Communications, SystemSpecs should be embraced as a patriotic corporate citizen positioned to answer some, if not all of the posers for which government intends to get answers. Already, testimonials attesting to the success of the Remita solution is beginning to gain attention as some African governments are already making enquiries preparatory to replicating this success story in their countries in appreciation of the use of technology to combat corruption and promote good governance. Nigeria can be spotted on the global space for achieving this creative and noble feat, this time, by exporting the “Made in Nigeria” software technology to solve global financial and remittance challenges. This is indeed a feat!

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