Why National Assembly refused to embrace TSA
ATTEMPTS to extend the application of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) policy to the National Assembly failed because of its tendency to compromise the independence of the legislature, The Guardian learnt at the weekend.
Also, fears that the adoption could frustrate the smooth functioning of the National Assembly led to the decision to out rightly reject its extension to the country’s apex law making body.
Confirming and explaining the rejection of the TSA by the National Assembly in an interview with The Guardian at the weekend in Abuja, Senate spokesman and Chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Publicity, Senator Aliu Saabi Abdullahi, however, pointed out that the Senate remained committed to making its finances open to the public.
Abdullahi said: “The reason we are not part of the TSA is simply constitutional and democratic. The TSA is an initiative of the executive arm of government and as you know, the National Assembly is a separate arm of government. The executive does not control the finances of the National Assembly because we are on a first line charge as guaranteed by the constitution.”
“However the National Assembly believes and practices the principle of openness and transparency and accountability, which is seen in the manner we display our budget and financial dealings. But the TSA thing is not one that can be binding on the National Assembly because of the need to uphold and sustain the constitutional issue of separation of powers.”
Another Senator disclosed that “Aside the separation of powers question, it was also found out that the National Assembly had serious problems managing the challenges posed by the TSA to its financial operations when attempts were first made to get the policy introduced and adopted by the Senate and the House of Representatives.”
Findings in the National Assembly revealed that the executive arm of government succumbed to weeks of protests and agitation by the leadership of the National Assembly against the extension of the TSA policy to the National Assembly, as many lawmakers believed that the TSA would cripple the operations of the apex legislative body.
It was also disclosed that following the cash squeeze that hit the Assembly in the early days of the introduction of the TSA, Senate President Bukola Saraki and the House of Representatives’ Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, heeded the advice of their colleagues and held series of meetings with Presidency officials, Ministry of Finance, and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) with a view to getting the matter resolved.
It was learnt that the introduction of the TSA in the Assembly delayed the payment of legislators’ October salaries in addition to causing some hitches in the funding of the parliamentary operations of Committee.
According to the source, “whereas members of the National Assembly usually receive their salaries between the 24th and the 25th day of every month, they did not receive alerts throughout the month of October up to the first week of November.”
The situation, he said, raised suspicion that their salaries might have been suspended on account of perceived non-compliance with the TSA policy.
The development, it was further learnt, prompted a meeting between the Governor of CBN, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, and the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Mrs. Ana Daniel-Nwaobia, early in November.
Dogara, who was said to have led both Emefiele and Daniel-Nwaobia to the Senate to meet Saraki, had equally been facing tough times in the hands of his colleagues in the House of Representatives over the cash crunch.
The source disclosed that both leaders of the National Assembly told the CBN governor and the permanent secretary that it would practically be impossible to enlist the National Assembly among government agencies to apply TSA.
According to the source, both government officers were told that it would be counter-productive to deny the National Assembly with its sensitive assignment access to funds, which they said would also affect the operations of the Federal Government that also needed the legislature to intervene in the execution of some of its urgent policies.