The Auditor-General of the Federation (AuGF), Mr. Samuel Ukura, has accused the Nigerian legislature of turning down the implementation of the 14 audit reports forwarded to it since 1999.
Ukura claimed that he exposed fraud and corrupt practices in Federal Government’s ministries and agencies in those reports.
He disclosed these at a retreat between his office and the Public Accounts Committees of both chambers of the National Assembly held in Abuja yesterday.
Ukura noted with regret that his staff usually produced the reports after due diligence and painstaking efforts, but that the documents were usually left unattended to by the committees saddled with the responsibilities of considering them at the two legislative chambers.
The AuGF said that the efforts of the present administration to tackle corruption would only achieve the desired results if the parliament could treat with passion, audit reports containing the official financial transactions of the various ministries, departments and agencies of government.
Ukura also stressed the need for the immediate passage of the Audit Bill, which was enacted to replace Nigeria’s first audit law made in 1958, insisting that the legislation had become obsolete.
The passage of the new bill, according to him, would empower his office to discharge its mandate effectively, because it guarantees financial and administrative independence.
He said: “Our office is desirous of a good working relationship between us and the PAC (Public Accounts Committees) so that all the reports we have been passing to them would be processed and passed to the executive for implementation after they had been considered at plenary.
“We have so many of them. Since 1999, we have submitted 14 audit reports, which had yet to see the light of the day. The reports were not even considered and submitted by the PAC to the plenary, not to talk of even passing to the executive for implementation.
“We also seek the passage into law of the audit bill, which is aimed at giving the Auditor-General, the independence, both financial, administrative and other rights. It has sanctions for those who refuse to respond to a query for a period of time, either through fine.
“It is a stronger bill compared to the one of 1958 when Nigeria was deriving revenue from agricultural products, coal and columbine, but we now have oil and gas and other products,” he said.
With the law in place, the Auditor-General said that his office would be administratively and financially independent to publish audit reports for public consumption, unlike the current practice, which could only be submitted to the National Assembly.
He said: “If the reports are made public, it will help accountability. The situation now is that the constitution says that the Auditor-General shall submit its report to the National Assembly and that is exactly what we have been doing. If the audit law is passed, we will have the power to make our report public.”
The representative of the Department For International Development in Nigeria (DFID), Mr. Ben Mellor, said that audit reports remained the most effective tool for oversight functions and, therefore, urged the federal parliament to ensure its prompt consideration.
Ukura said that members of the public accounts committees should ensure that hopes of Nigerians who voted for accountability, probity and good governance, were not dashed by ensuring passage of audit reports.
He said: “The Public Accounts Committees are the most powerful instruments of parliament to check wastage and corruption and they are required to provide real leadership to clean up the public service of corruption.”
He, therefore, advised the committees to involve journalists in their public hearings and meetings before, during and after the exercise.
Meanwhile, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and the Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, had pledged prompt consideration of audit reports in the Eighth National Assembly in order to earn the respect and confidence of Nigerians.
Saraki was represented at the event by the Senate Minority Whip, Senator Abiodun Olujimi, while Dogara was represented by the Chairman, House Committee on Public Accounts, Hon. Chinda Kingsley.