Senate busts N378m deal between OAGF and Webb Fontaine
BY EGUONO ODJEGBA
As the federal government raises the bar in the fight against corruption driven by fraudulent transactions, official conspiracies and compromises, the Senate has uncovered alleged plot by the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF) and Webb Fontaine to defraud government of Three Hundred and Seventy Eight Million (N378million).
The fraud was allegedly perpetrated by some top officials of the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation, who purportedly signed an agreement of tax waiver to Webb Fontaine Limited, making the Federal Government to lose the sum of N378 million in Withholding Tax (WT) through an illegal and orchestrated arbitrary waiver.
The Senate Public Accounts Committee, chaired by Senator Matthew Urhoghide, had during the investigation of the 2015 Audit Report against the Accountant-General of the Federation discovered that N3.7 billion was paid to Webb Fountain Limited without the mandatory deduction of Withholding Tax, leading to the loss of tax revenue amounting to N378 million.
Reacting to the Auditor-General’s Report, the Senate Committee said, “The sum of N3.7 billion was paid to Webb Fountain Limited without deduction of Withholding Tax”, adding:
“This action led to the loss of tax revenue of N378 million and possibly more companies not covered by sampled test.”
Representative of the Accountant-General stated that the laws governing the Terms of Agreement of their contract, Webb Fontaine Limited had been exempted from the payment of taxes (Withholding Tax or Value Added Tax).
The Senate, however, expressed doubt at the claim, noting that the said tax waiver smacks of arbitrariness and unacceptable for tax waivers to be granted a private company under unclear circumstances.
Accordingly, the Committee directed that all officials who signed the agreement with Webb Fontaine should be identified and investigated. The Committee further directed the Accountant-General of the Federation to handover the affected officials to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in line with Rule 31112.
“The Accountant-General should recover the sum of N378 million from Webb Fountain Limited and remit to the Federal Inland Revenue Service. Recovery particulars should be forwarded to the Auditor-General of the Federation for audit,” it said.
Webb Fontaine is a Port Community ICT Specialist company which provides an interface between port authorities, terminal operators and the customs, offering a comprehensive set of features designed for the facilitation of port logistics operations.