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Senate Committee Chair on Appropriation says Nigeria’s Auditor-General Office is designed to fail

And latest auditor's report proves him right

MATTHEW Urhoghide, Chairman Senate Committee on Appropriation was upset this morning when responding to questions on Sunrise Daily, a Channel television programme.

The Committee he chairs just obtained the Auditor-General’s report that shows the failure of many federal agencies to submit their Annual Accounts and Audited Reports to the Office Auditor General of the Federation (OAuGF) as required by the Constitution.

Section 85 (5) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), requires that the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) should submit the reports not later than 31st May, of the following year of Accounts.

In turn, the OAuGF is expected to submit the documents to the National Assembly within 90 days of receipt of the statements from the Accountant-General of the Federation.

But many MDAs did not comply.

According to the report, 265 MDAs failed to comply with constitutional provisions in 2017. And almost a dozen of them never submitted annual reports since they were established. The latest report presents a worse situation than in previous years. In 2011, seventy agencies failed to submit a financial report to the auditor general. The number rose to eighty-five in 2012; one hundred and nine in 2013; one hundred and forty-eight in 2014 and two hundred and fifteen in 2015.

Despite the flagrant violation of the Constitution and Finance (Control and Management) Act, neither the Senate nor the OAuGF could sanction the erring agencies. They both have no such power in law.

“There are no serious punishments for ineptitude,” the Senator said.

Urhoghide’s frustration came out in bold relief when disclosing that the auditor general office has no budget for competent personnel or modern technology to even carry out proper auditing of the federal accounts.

“The office [OAuGF] is designed to fail,” he let out.

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The auditor-general, Anthony Mkpe Ayine also has admitted that much in the report. Severe funding constraints make it difficult to self-fund significant amounts of fieldwork, he wrote.

“The Office also does not have adequate accommodation for its staff, thereby resorting to the Resident-Auditor approach where audit staff are based permanently at audited offices.

“This practice has long been stopped by Supreme Audit Institutions but in the absence of suitable accommodation and funding for audit fieldwork, the OAuGF is yet to discontinue this arrangement.”

In spite of the paucity of funding, the responsibility of the OAuGF continues to rise, Mr. Ayine stated in the report.

OAuGF is an agency responsible for the first line of checking corruption. And for such an agency to be starved of funds is an indication Nigeria appears unprepared to fight corruption, Urhoghide implied in response to a question.

Notwithstanding, President Muhammadu Buhari has disclosed on the Aso RockTwitter handle @Presidency Nigeria on Tuesday that his administration would ensure that no government financial transaction is carried out in secret. But the auditor-general’s report may have put the lie to such a statement.

There is one way to urgently clear the doubt; that is when the president gives assent to the Audit Bill recently passed by the National Assembly. If signed, the new law will sanction agencies that fail to account for their budget as well as the heads of such agencies.

According to Senator Urhoghide, it is only when there is accountability and transparency in economic spending, that Nigeria can record value for money spent.

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