FIRS Telecoms' VAT calls audit job in national interest - Tunde Fowler

Tunde Fowler has explained that the telecoms' VAT calls audit job is in national interest at no cost to Nigeria.

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FIRS boss, Babatunde Fowler play

FIRS boss, Babatunde Fowler

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The Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service, (FIRS) Tunde Fowler, has dismissed claim that a company was awarded contract without following procurement process.

Fowler said the allegations that the FIRS awarded huge contracts to Active Solution Integrated Synergy without procurement are mere fantasies and a figment of the imagination of the peddlers.

Fowler told the Ad-Hoc committee on Procurement that the FIRS’ vote for the company was on account of the national revenue emergency, which demands that agency thinks outside the box to generate enough revenue for the nation.

In his words: “The proposal  from Active Solution Integrated Synergy Ltd, came at the nick of time when FIRS tax revenue collection was nose-diving as a result of the recession in the economy and the perpetual fall in crude oil prices which exerted more pressure on non-oil revenue. Government set high revenue targets which FIRS was expected to meet.

“FIRS was determined to pass the litmus test set by the high revenue target and is poised to provide succor to government funding challenges. This FIRS did by declaring state of emergency in tax revenue collection. The strategy adopted by FIRS to boost tax revenue collection was to deploy more automation in the tax revenue collection machinery to deepen the already existing automated platform and catch transactions which may have escaped the tax view before now.

“This trend prompted FIRS to adopt automations that facilitate handshake with some specific sectors of the economy. As we are all aware, telecoms sector is an area that the transactions are not very open to many and there has been no lucid knowledge about revenue presentations in-spite of the much accountants have been able to report. This is attributable to the total automation of their operations. The only way to crack into such systems was to allow for operators who understand the terrain to lend a helping hand with a view to achieving more tax revenue," he said.

In continuation of this drive for automation, Fowler said FIRS launched the following solutions recently e-Registration); e-Stamp Duty); online payment: e-tax pay, Remita); e-Receipt); e-filing) and online Tax Clearance Certificates (TCC).

The FIRS Chairman, however explained yesterday that it acted in national interest on a contract that will give Nigeria more revenue, yet was at no cost to the nation.  In other words, if Active Intelligence generates no revenue from its VAT recovery efforts, it is not paid a dime.

He explained too that it was for a company that had the sole expertise on the technology and telecoms calls audit that had never been done in Nigeria. The company also had a track record in UK and about 10 countries in Africa, including Ghana.

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The contract was at no cost to the nation, as it had no financial commitment or upfront payment to the consultant. Rather, Fowler told the committee, companies given contracts on recovery of VAT on International calls on telecoms were to be paid only 1 % of the value of the money they generate.

This, he noted was better than the old practice, where consultants were paid for such jobs either they pull in money or not.

Continuing, he said: “What we did was that we sought out companies with history and demonstrated expertise in ICT sector for which there are no demonstrable expertise available locally.

“The proposed solution is an intellectual property of Active Intelligence Ltd and the company has exclusive rights over the solution. FIRS engaged the company given its expertise and experience to deliver and also given experience of the Directors and Technical Partners of the company

“The company went through a process six months before agreed that it has value and experience to add value to our job. The company showed us what it had done in Ghana. It was novel and it had not been done in Nigeria.  The UK company is called Active Intelligence Limited. It has established itself as a leading ICT company in Africa and has a presence in Ghana and 10 other African.

Fowler told the committee that the Nigerian arm of the company was registered on 2nd December, 2016 and was  awarded contract on 23rdJanuary, 2017 to deploy IT solution to deduct VAT on Telecom companies.

“In agreeing that the company should handle the VAT audit of telephone calls, we also considered other benefits like technology transfer and development of local knowledge. We then insisted that the company must be registered in Nigeria. It did with.

“We took them through the Procurement process. It was a technology exclusive to them. And Section 42 (1) a & b of the Public Procurement Act allows us to do that," Fowler said.

The Ad-Hoc Committee Chairman, Hon Olusola Oke, noted FIRS’ bid to generate more money for the treasury so the nation could spend its way out of recession. However, he advised FIRS to always liaise with the Bureau for Public Procurement, so that it will not violate the Procurement Act.

Before Fowler spoke to the committee, committee members had engaged the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun for about two and half hours over the ministry’s compliance with the Pre-shipment Inspection of Oil and gas regulations.

While the committee complained about the ministry’s compliance with requisite rules on appointment of pre-shipment consultants, the minister noted that it is the responsibility of the parliament to enact relevant laws to address such gaps.

A little over a month ago, the House had raised an ad-hoc committee headed by Hon. Oluwole Oke to probe alleged infraction of the Procurement Act. This followed a motion by Deputy Minority Leader Hon. Chukwuma Onyeama. Onyema claimed then FIRS awarded a contract to a very young company.

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