Babatunde Raji Fashola recently put up a spirited defense of the consultancy agreement between the Lagos State Government and Alpha Beta Consulting Limited allegedly belonging to Bola Ahmed Tinubu that allows the firm collects 10 per cent of Internally Generated Revenue of the state for supposedly helping to keep track of actual revenue received.
Although Mr. Fashola is a brilliant lawyer as evidenced by his being accorded the status of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, his defense of this seemingly 'monkey de work, baboon de chop' relationship between LSG and ABC qualifies for standing reason on its head and certainly did not justice to this vexing issue.
According to Mr. Fashola, LSG revenues prior to engaging ABC were about N600 million but is now hovering between N14 billion and N18 billion monthly, so this justifies the monthly fees of about N1.8 billion paid to ABC not for collecting the IGR, a job reserved for Lagos State Internal Revenue and other revenue earning agencies of LSG, but for helping ascertain the actual IGR generated by these agencies.
Mr. Fashola's defense was put forward during a recent debate involving other candidates contesting for the governorship election in Lagos State who had all condemned the consultancy agreement as a means of siphoning public funds by Bola Ahmed Tinubu, with promises to cancel the said contract should any one of them be elected governor of Lagos State.
First, it is not disputed that there is a connection between Bola Ahmed Tinubu and ABC, and it is also public knowledge that the consultancy agreement between ABC and LSG was entered into while Bola Ahmed Tinubu was already governor of Lagos State, so if there ever was a clear case of breach of public trust and abuse of office, this would have to be one of such instances.
Second, even if we concede that the consultancy agreement is valid, the retention of a flat rate of commission, i.e. 10 percent, in the face of escalating revenue receipts by LSG is absurd and warrants the use of a decreasing scale of fees as is done in any other civilized society but then in civilized societies, elected officials or public servants do not commit the government to sign contracts they have a stake in.
Third, by Mr. Fashola's own admission, ABC is not involved in revenue collection but to ascertain the actual revenue received by LSG, but pray how do banks and other organizations that have hundreds of branches and sales point keep track of monies received on a daily basis if not through the use of Information Communication and Technology and by adopting software that keep them on top of their finances.
Forth, spending 10 per cent of IGR just to ascertain the actual revenue generated by LSG is inefficient and not a judicious use of public funds and by the time we are adding funds expended on those agencies of government who are generating and collecting the revenue including monies expended on elected officials the cost of governance consumes half of the IGR.
Fifth, LSG is the most indebted government entity in Nigeria, second only to the Federal Government on the debt scale who at least gets a substantial chunk of its revenue from crude oil and gas sale, unlike LSG that depends on PAYEE taxes paid by already overburdened Lagosians and to use 10 per cent of such revenue receipts to service ABC while borrowing more money is absurd to say the least.
Medical doctors in the employment of LSG have been on strike for some months now over demands for improved pay, a move being stoutly resisted by the government resulting in the deaths of thousands of innocent and unfortunate Lagosians, and the response of Bola Ahmed Tinubu is to call for the sack of these doctors who work long hours under grueling conditions.
If ABC can collect 10 per cent of LSG IGR, for doing what the Federal Inland Revenue Service is doing for the Federal Government by taking 4 per cent of revenue generated, why can LSG not pay doctors who attend to the health needs of the same Lagosians who are paying the taxes that oils ABC and its patrons, is the real question that Mr. Fashola ought to address.