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POLICY ALERT, a civil society organisation working on fiscal justice, has called on the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly to expunge Section 31 (2) of the bill seeking to establish the Akwa Ibom State Audit Commission, Offices of the Auditor-General for Akwa Ibom State and Auditor-General for Local Governments and for other related matters connected therewith.
This was part of the memo presented by Project Officer of Policy Alert Mfon Gabriel at the public hearing for the bill held on Thursday, June 24, 2021.
Section 31 (2) provides that “If at any time, it appears to the State Auditor-General that any irregularities have occurred in the receipt, custody or expenditure of public monies or in the receipt, custody, issue, sale, transfer or delivery of any securities, stores or other Government property, or in the accounting of same, he shall immediately bring the matter to the notice of the Governor or the Accounting Officer of the affected Ministry or Agency and to any other officer he may deem fit.”
Policy Alert, in its memo, queried the rationale behind channeling discovered irregularities to the executive instead of the legislature as provided by law.
“This gives room for cover-up and it takes the power of oversight from the State House of Assembly as provided for in section 128 and 129 of the Nigerian Constitution as amended.
“If the bill scales through with this section, in fact, it is going to be against public interest.
“Policy Alert is recommending that irregularities discovered should be stated in the State Auditor-General’s report and should be submitted to the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Assembly, then before the committee of the whole for necessary and adequate sanctions.”
Policy Alert further proposed that Section 4 of the bill, which provides three years as tenure for the chairman and members of the commission, be reviewed to five years so as to avoid political intrigues which might affect the smooth sail of the commission.
The organisation, however, applauded the concept behind the bill, among other provisions, noting that when the observed sections were amended and passed into law, they would help the fiscal machinery of the state.
In response, Speaker of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly Aniekan Bassey claimed that passing the discovered irregularities to the concerned ministries involved and the governor would not lead to cover-up.
Represented by the Deputy Speaker Felicia Bassey, the House helmsman noted that
“When it finally comes to Public Account, people are meant to answer and properly dealt with.
“So, I don’t think he covers anything. We are here to do the last clearing and people have gone in for it.”
The Audit Commission Bill was first read on Tuesday, June 22, 2021. Its second reading took place on Wednesday, June 23, 2021 and public hearing on Thursday, June 24, 2021.