Ministry matters

Reps summon Commerce Department officials over MTN tax evasion claims N2.6trn – Channels Television

A file photo of members of the House of Representatives attends a plenary session at the lower house of the National Assembly in Abuja on November 24, 2020.

The House of Representatives on Tuesday vowed not to rest on its oars in a bid to ensure accountability for the N2.6 trillion in capital allocations given to MTN by the Federal Ministry of Trade and Industry.

House Public Accounts Committee Chairman Oluwole Oke said this during the resumed investigative hearing on tax evasion audit questions issued by the office of the Auditor General of the Federation (oAuGF).

He revealed that the oAuGF report stated that the documents relating to the N2.6 trillion write-offs were allegedly falsified.

While pointing out that the committee called MTN for tax evasion, Oke explained that the oAuGF, in its report, observed that the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) placed value on the telecommunications company when in some cases, without certificates and evidence of depreciation issued by Federal Ministry of Trade and Industry, reflecting all assets purchased by the company.

“We have problems in this country where there are not enough funds for the government to carry out policies and programs, which is why we have had to borrow even though there are massive revenue losses,” did he declare.

“MTN also made appearances where 2.6 trillion naira was considered the assessed value of the company’s assets and we asked where they existed and who checked them as they had already claimed their value from FIRS.”

The legislator has argued that Nigerians are entitled to know the implications of MTN taking a 2.6 trillion naira certificate from the FIRS for tax exemptions on the economy.

“Parliament just wants to know whether to back the motion raised by the Auditor General or absolve the company of allegations of tax evasion, as it would be wrong to accuse it of this if these documents match the submission of the business,” he said. Explain.

“The question says we should talk about facts and law. You are here when we asked the Ministry of Industry and they said the local and foreign content was the certificates they issued to you. However, the Auditor General claims that this broadcast appears to have been tampered with, which was the basis of his request to you.

In her response, the Managing Director of MTN, Ms Yemisi Adeleye, explained that the company had submitted all relevant documents issued by the Federal Ministry of Trade and Industry reflecting the value of N2.6 trillion naira given to it. been granted.

While answering questions about the 2016 inspection regarding write-offs granted to the company, Ms Adebayo observed that the company had made claims to the Federal Ministry of Trade and Industry at the end of the year, prompting them to choose a location and inspect, as it was physically impossible for them to inspect thousands of assets across the country.

Thus, the ministry, on the basis of their selection on supporting documents, granted the allowances.

She said what the company had in 2016 was the automated card folder containing the ins and outs of the team leader, a Mr. Ike.

When asked how many people were on the team with Ike who had the access card and inspected the assets from March 29 to April 4, she said she could not remember the identities of the ministry officials as the team members were not individually captured in the recording.

She said what they presented to the FIRS was what their security team gave them.

When asked again whether the ministry had written to the company informing them of the date of the inspection and the list of team members or simply by word of mouth, Ms Adebayo said that the Ministry had officially communicated to this effect.

Also asked how many assets they inspected in the five days, she said she couldn’t remember.

She argued that the company’s most expensive infrastructure was stored in their switches located at Ojota in Lagos, Port Harcourt, among others.

While giving details of the claims made by the company for depreciation, she disclosed that the sum of N18,967,410,769 was claimed in 2016.

She added that in 2017, a logbook was brought back showing the Abuja switch with Ike and three other members of the inspection team.

According to her, a total sum of N148 billion was granted to the company, while N210 billion was approved in 2018 after Ojota’s referral visit, as well as N190,629,586,000 in 2019. following a visit to the Port Harcourt switch.

When asked if all the assets purchased by the company in 2019 were all located at the Port Harcourt switch, she replied in the negative.

She added that in 2020 ministry officials visited Abuja switch, another team visited Ojota switch, while another visited Port Harcourt and gave capital allocation worth N219,540,623,545.

When asked if she would agree to give a value of N219 billion based on an inspection that only visited three sites out of over a thousand sites, she said the company only filed which had been approved by the inspection team to the FIRS for review.

Oke, in his remarks, reiterated lawmakers’ determination to check the patriotic and professional involvement of ministry officials, saying they cannot sit back and watch when people whose salaries and allowances have been affected at work fail to perform their duties. under the law.

To this end, the committee decided that all officials involved in the inspection of the Federal Ministry of Trade and Industry should be brought before it.

He also requested tax records covering the periods under review from both MTN and FIRS for further legislative review.