Sordid past – The Nation

  • Searchlight on the past of JAMB should be extended to other agencies suspected to have short-changed the system

That something was seriously amiss as regards the management of the funds of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) was revealed a few months ago when a staff in its Markurdi, Benue State, office, Philomena Chieshe, was apprehended over the alleged loss of N36m in her care. While not denying the veracity of the allegation, Philomena bizarrely told her interrogators that the money had indeed been swallowed by a snake. It was only after further questioning by officials of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) that Philomena confessed that she was constantly under pressure from her supervising coordinator to withdraw money from the two accounts in her care, into which proceeds for scratch cards sales were paid.

Philomena is one of those past and present staff and directors of JAMB who are being invited by the EFCC to explain their roles in the loss of approximately N8bn which was not remitted to the Federal Government between 2010 and 2015. Finance minister, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, had set up a panel to investigate why JAMB, before the inception of this administration, never remitted more than N3m to the Consolidated Federation Account in any given year. It was in the pursuit of this assignment that the panel uncovered the N8bn fraud. The components of the stolen funds being investigated by the EFCC include Value Added Tax (VAT) and Withholding Tax.

It is instructive that though the current Registrar of JAMB, Professor Ishaq Oloyede, assumed office in August 2016, JAMB has  remitted about N15.6bn to the treasury during his tenure. Surely, the performance of Professor Oloyede and his management team legitimately raises questions about the wide discrepancy between the organisation’s revenue performance in the past and what it has attained now.

We are not unaware of the contention in some quarters that JAMB is not necessarily a revenue generating agency, at least going by the law that set it up. According to the spokesman of JAMB, Dr. Fabian Benjamin, “We are not generating revenue for the Federal Government. What we collect from candidates are liabilities for the service we have not rendered. But in the event whereby we have excess, it is only natural to know it’s not ours and we must return it to the government…It’s not revenue we generate but excess of what we spent”. Professor Oloyede makes the point succinctly when he says that while JAMB was not set up as a money-generating agency, it is at the same time not meant to be a money-wasting entity.

This attitude is most commendable. If he wanted to toe the line of least resistance, Professor Oloyede would easily have retained the old method of doing things and remain content to continue to remit paltry sums to the Federal Government. There are those who also argue that rather than remitting money to the Federal Government, excess funds should be ploughed back into the running of the organisation. That would make slush funds available at the agency creating avenues for avoidable corruption.

We are in support of the board’s decision to spend some of the surplus to enhance the conduct of the examination and candidates will benefit by way of conducive environment. Instead of continuing to remit money to government coffers, we support the suggestion that the board should reduce the fees charged the candidates, at least to lessen the financial burden on the parents. JAMB has started to reflect this in the registration fees charged foreign students; it should extend same to the local students too. This way, we can rest assured that the reduction in registration fees would reflect in the pockets of the desired stakeholders, instead of risking its being looted when returned into government’s coffers.

As we said in earlier editorials on the matter, other government agencies like the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) which also returned hefty sums to government unlike in the past when they turned in paltry sums should also be investigated. This is the best way to enhance efficiency and transparency in the handling of public funds.

 

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