The Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) wants the federal government to immediately carry out a comprehensive audit of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND).
NEITI said the agency received N993.3billion from the Federation Account between 2012 and 2016 but "does not have a comprehensive accounting and operational manual."
The immediate audit of the agency was one of the key recommendations in a report based on the NEITI Fiscal Allocation and Statutory Disbursement (FASD) Audit for the period 2012 to 2016 published a fortnight ago.
NEITI said the recommendation followed the finding by its audit team that the agency lacked comprehensive accounting and operational manual to guide its accounting and operations processes.
In its reaction to the report, TETFUND denied the possibility of not having guidelines for the financial and other aspects of its operations. It made reference to its annual report, which it said contains information on all its operations.
The TETFUND is an educational fund established with the mandate to administer the two per cent education tax imposed on profit-making taxable companies registered and doing business in Nigeria.
A Board of Trustees constituted to manage the Fund was charged with the responsibility of utilizing the oil and gas and non-oil and gas revenues from companies to rehabilitate, develop and improve the quality of tertiary education in the country.
The beneficiaries of the funds are the educational institutions in the country, including universities, colleges of education, polytechnics, monotechnics, federal and state ministries of education, commissions, state primary and secondary education boards.
Others are staff training and development agencies, libraries, ICT, capacity building, sports, book development, research, vocational training, police and paramilitary agencies.
The Executive Council of the Federation in December 2012 approved an audit of revenue receipts and disbursements from the Federation Account to relevant agencies including TETFUND.
Between the 2012 and 2016, NEITI said total revenues received by the TETFUND from the Federation Account for its operations was about N993.3billion. About N804.9 billion came from mineral revenue sources and N188.5 billion from non-mineral sources.
Details of the revenues showed in 2012, the Fund got N188.4 billion. The amount received in 2013 increased by 48 per cent to N279.2 billion, while the figure following year (2014) dropped by a similar percentage margin to N189.6 billion.
In 2015, NEITI said the revenue allocated to the Fund increased by 8 per cent to N206 billion and then reduced to about N130 billion in 2016, a 37 per cent reduction.
NEITI findings showed Board of Trustees of the Fund utilized the allocations for the provision of essential physical infrastructure for teaching and learning, instructional materials and equipment a as well as researches and publications.
Also, the funds were also used for academic staff training and development, in addition to other needs that the agency considered critical and essential for the improvement of quality and maintenance of standards in the higher educational institutions.
However, NEITI said its audit team was unable to verify the populated templates submitted to TETFUND because its top officials were uncooperative.
"Letters of introduction by NEITI were not honoured by the agency on two different occasions," the consultants involved in the audit said in the final report.
"A letter dated 10 April 2016, and another letter acknowledged as received on 8 June 2018 from NEITI were delivered to TETFUND.
"In both cases, we were informed the Executive Secretary had not yet given his permission for us to come and review the submitted templates, and so we were not granted permission to validate the templates," the consultant said.
In its final report published a fortnight ago, NEITI said one of its key findings during the audit was that the "Fund does not have a comprehensive accounting and operational manual. Hence, there is insufficient guide for accounting and operations' processes."
Following the uncooperative attitude of its top officials, NEITI said its audit team was "unable to verify the income received from the various sources by the agency, and unable to evaluate the utilization of the funds."
Consequently, the transparency agency recommended a comprehensive audit of the Fund to be carried out by the federal government without delay.
The agency also called on the government to tackle the issue of undue political control and interference by state governors in the execution of the Education Trust Fund-funded projects in their respective states.
"There is need to educate the governors on ETF intervention policies, which are rooted in accountability and standards and are performance-driven.
"Intervention, beneficiaries with accumulated un-accessed funds should be allowed to merge all their outstanding allocations and propose projects to be funded with the backlog of funds," the NEITI report said.
The other recommendations included the need to explore the possibility of developing prototypes for adoption by beneficiaries, to maintain standards and uniformity in projects they execute, and to minimize the challenges posed by un-accessed funds.
In addition, it called for the re-examination of the Fund's intervention policies, and to modify them where necessary.
In a response to PREMIUM TIMES inquiry, TETFUND spokesperson, Gbenga Arolasafe, denied the report.
"I want you to know that we (TETFUND) have our Annual Reports up to date. Even the 2018 Annual Report is already being published.
"So, it will be difficult to understand how any entity will claim our financial records, which are in the Annual Report, were not available," Mr Arolasafe said in a text message in response to our reporter's inquiry on Sunday.
Apart from the income and expenditure of the Fund and other financials, Mr Arolasafe said the annual report covers all information the NEITI audit team would have wanted on other aspects of its operations from the beginning to the end of the year.
On the report that the Fund did not honour two requests from the audit team, he requested for time to confirm the information with the director finance of the Fund. He was yet to do so at the time of this report.
He, however, denied that the Fund receives any allocation from the Federation Account, saying it is the Federal Inland Revenue Service, which collects the education tax on its behalf.
"For the record, we do not have anything to do with the federation account. It is also not possible for TETFUND not to have guidelines for its financial operations, particularly with our annual report always up-to-date, including the 2018 edition, which is currently in print," he said.