System Specs, the owner company of Remita, the e-payment and e-collection software deployed by the federal government to drive implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA), has dismissed allegation of wrongdoing against it as a ploy to frustrate the scheme.
Senator Dino Melaye (Kogi West) had, on Tuesday, alleged on the floor of the Red Chamber that the firm was making about N25bn per day for facilitating compliance by the MDGs with the TSA directive.
Melaye accused those he described as “financial scavengers and economic cankerworms” of trying to sabotage the anti-corruption war of the Buhari administration by mismanaging the TSA.
Senate President Bukola Saraki promptly responded to the alarm by mandating a number of Senate’s committees to probe the alleged payment of N25 billion to Remita from the sum of N2.5trn allegedly mopped up from loose government accounts on September 15.
But the company has fired a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, explaining its involvement in the exercise and requesting resolution of issues surrounding the processing fees.
Debunking Melaye’s claims in a chat with our correspondent, a senior executive at SystemSpecs, who asked not to be named, said the e-collection company was never paid the said sum.
“Contrary to the impression that has been created in the media that the TSA project began with the Buhari administration, the project has been on since 2012 when the Jonathan administration appointed us as the e-collection agent, using Remita, the software we designed for that purpose,” the source said
“The only difference is that most of the government agencies did not comply with the directive until the Buhari administration came on board because the Jonathan government did not demonstrate the political will to enforce it.
“President Buhari came and gave the government agencies a time frame within which they must comply with the directive or get penalised. That is why we were able to mop up about N2.5 trillion on deadline day.”
The top executive said that at the commencement of the project in May 2012, it was agreed that one per cent of the sums collected from MDAs would be deducted and shared between Systemspecs, the affected banks and the CBN in ratios of .5 %, .4% and .1% respectively.
“That was how we were able to make a little over N3 billion, which we returned to the CBN as soon as we received a directive from the CBN Governor sometime in August that we should refund all TSA e-collection fees earned to date and suspend all charges on the platform.
“You can therefore imagine how shocked we were to hear Senator Melaye say that we were making N25 billion every day from the implementation of TSA. How on earth can that be possible?
“Ironically, the banks from whom the collections were made did not even know that they were making a lot of money from the exercise.
“It was when we received the directive to return the deductions we had made and their accounts were also debited that they realised that they had been making a lot of money from the exercise.”
In its letter to President Buhari, the company urged him to take measures that would ensure that the federal government does not play into the hands of some forces determined to frustrate the TSA initiative.
The letter dated November 6, 2015 and signed by the Managing Director of System Specs, Mr. John Obaro, reads in part: “Your Excellency, we are aware that you must have heard series of reports around the 1% processing fees chargeable on e-Collections of Government receipts. We will like to provide some background on these issues sir.
“System Specs was engaged to provide the Payment Gateway for TSA in 2011. While the payment leg of TSA commenced in January 2012, the collection component did not start as scheduled due to the resistance from a number of quarters and the absence of the political will to push this through.
“In 2013, CBN and OAGF setup ·a multi-stakeholder implementation committee and organised a joint seminar with key stakeholders, including banks, to agree formalities for commencement of e-collection.
“The Banks proposed a fee of 5% to compensate for the fact that they would no longer keep float.
“The implementation committee however recommended 2.5% after negotiation with the banks.
“The then AGF later approved 1% as processing fee, which was in turn communicated to all the stakeholders through CBN in December 2013. Subsequently, we executed a contract with CBN and other stakeholders involved on the provision of services to support TSA.
“Based on the increased scope of the TSA project, following your directive in August 2015 for all MDAs to join the scheme, we had highlighted the need for a stakeholder meeting to discuss the TSA e-collection fees. This was communicated to both CBN and OAGF.
“Instead of an invitation for a stakeholders meeting as requested, we received a directive from the CBN Governor to refund all TSA e-collection fees earned to date and to suspend all charges on the platform.
“System Specs has since complied fully with this directive and refunded all monies earned to date to CBN. This we did in good faith and without prejudice to avoid distractions that could becloud the bigger potential of the TSA project for our country.
“While we await clarification from OAGF/CBN on the way forward, we have since suspended all TSA e collection fees on the platform. This means that none of the TSA collection parties/channels are earning any fees for providing services to Government.
“This position is however not sustainable as the collection partner banks are threatening to suspend FGN TSA collections. This would clearly be playing into the hands of those who do not wish this initiative to succeed.
“We understand the strategic importance of the TSA project to this administration and the country at large. We have demonstrated good faith and continued commitment to the project in the last four years to deliver on our mandate.
“We will continue to do all within our power to bring the project to full term.
“Your Excellency, we would appreciate your kind and urgent intervention to ensure a speedy resolution of this matter before the banks stop collections.”