House of Reps Committee on Customs wants forensic audit experts to study the payment receipts and all activities of IT Company rendering services for the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), insists that the CBN must appear before it to provide details regarding the investigation
The House of Representatives Committee on Customs and Excise has resolved to engage forensic audit experts to study the payment receipts and all activities of Webb Fontaine, to the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS). following a prolonged contract dispute between the IT service provider and the Service.
Chairman of the Committee, Rep. Leke Abejide (ADC, Kogi), who disclosed this during an investigative hearing, stated that the decision is to ascertain actual revenue loss to the Nigerian government and other stakeholders. This is as he noted that the government and Nigerians had suffered various degrees of losses from the contract.
The investigative hearing was a follow-up on the decision of the House to ensure compliance by the IT service provider, Webb Fontaine, with service level agreements entered into, with the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS). Abejide also added that government agencies are supposed to refund payments made for services they did not offer.
“We are here on the assignment given to us by the Leadership of the House and the entire House to investigate the loss of revenue that has gone to Webb Fountain in the cause of discharging their services to the nation in the period they have operated in Nigeria,” the lawmaker said.
He added that the Committee would require some information from relevant agencies as the committee is expected to submit its report in four weeks.
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Earlier, the Director of Home Finance of the Federal Ministry of Finance, Ali Mohammed, who represented the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, noted that the contract had been in place since 2006.
Mohammed explained that so far, 60% of the contract payment had been made to Webb Fontaine. “The essence of the contract is to increase the revenue drive of the Federal government, and I can say to an extent, the services have not been realised,” Mohammed said.
In his reaction, the representative of the Nigerian Customs Service, Kingsley Egwu, corroborated the downtime and poor service provided by Webb Fontaine, which affected revenue generation for the government. According to him, Webb Fontaine had not provided the necessary training for Customs to take over the services properly.
“The services, they can not be better put, the downtime, the hiccup in their services has been very poor. The downtime is disturbing services. All of controllers complain about the downtime,” Egwu stated. He further explained that the Nigerian Customs Service wishes to take over the service provider’s services, but the firm its personnel were yet to get enough training to take over management of the service.
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In response, the Managing Director of Webb Fontaine, Opeyemi Babalola, agreed to the downtime issue but maintained that there are site engineers on the ground to address service issues at any point. He promised to improve services as he explained that the firm recently changed some of its network service providers.
“We ourselves as a company has heard and seen reports often by the press and held meetings about the issues of downtime. Whenever we get those, we investigate. We can not deny that there are issues but on everything, we have site support engineers who are supposed to be the first call on anything about the Webb Fountain system.
And those issues usually should be able to be resolved. The reports of several days of downtime, we have found them strange because that has not been our experience,” Babalola said, stressing that when there are issues, they end up being resolved as quickly as possible.
The Committee, however, insists that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) must appear before it next week to provide details regarding the investigation.