Monday, October 17, 2011

National Assembly is Encouraging Corruption, Says Auditor-General

The growing cases of sleaze and fiscal indiscipline in the country have been blamed on the nonchalance and failure of the National Assembly to act on the annual reports from the nation’s Auditor General. This was part of the report which the Auditor General released over the weekend on the financial state of government agencies, institutions and bodies.

Describing it as negligence of duty, the report argued that the failure of the National Assembly to act accordingly had encouraged other agencies and departments to either become nonchalant about the auditor’s report, or altogether defiant about financial regulations.
This, it stated, had made many government agencies to be reluctant in adhering to prescribed accounting standards, while several of them had refused to submit annual reports of their income and expenditure to the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation.

In the report presented to the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Representatives, the Auditor General of the Federation, Mr. Samuel Tyonongu Ukura, stressed that the failure of the National Assembly to perform this constitutional role had become counter-productive to the quest by the Federal Government to curb graft and mismanagement of public funds in Nigeria.
The audit reports have always been submitted to the National Assembly at the end of every fiscal year since 1999.

The report contains the audited accounts of all government agencies, statutory corporations and institutions which the constitution empowers the National Assembly to scrutinise with a view to curbing waste of public funds and checking corruption. 
Ukura said the AGF's report formed an integral part of the annual audit report.

Also, the auditor general said several top government agencies like the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had, over the years, consistently failed to submit their annual reports for auditing.
According to the report, public institutions such as the EFCC and National Salaries Incomes and Wages Commission have never submitted annual reports of their finances since inception.

It also stated that others including the CBN and NNPC had not submitted their annual financial reports for auditing for several years.
The report further blamed the increasing cases of fraud and graft in government agencies and institutions on the failure of the National Assembly in either taking appropriate actions on the annual recommendations of the auditor general on public institutions, or even adhering to fiscal regulations by the legislature itself.

At the unveiling of the report at a crucial meeting of the House Committee, Ukura and Accountant General of the Federation, Mr. Joseph Ogunniyi Otunla, the Chairman of the House Committee, Hon. Solomon Adeola, said the parliament could not take the whole blame as the Office of the Auditor General had not reminded it on the need to consider the audit report.
Adeola said that the last official correspondence from the Auditor General's Office to the National Assembly on the vexed issue was in 2007.

He also expressed reservations on the failure of the accountant general to enforce compliance with the law by sanctioning government agencies that fail to file annual financial reports and subject themselves to audit.
The lawmaker also expressed concerns that both the accountant general and the auditor general were not doing enough to monitor the operations of revenue generating and collecting agencies in the country.

According to the Public Accounts Committee, the national treasury was losing billions of naira due to leakages and or the failure of revenue generating agencies to remit what they collect to the Federation Account.
The committee dismissed the claims by the auditor general that the existing laws had not made clear provisions for the imposition of sanctions on erring agencies.

“The auditor general has no excuse for failing to properly audit the accounts of ministries and agencies of government because the constitution has sufficiently empowered him to carry out such responsibilities.  If you carry out your duties very well, we may not even have needed to establish all these anti-graft agencies,” Adeola said.
The committee said that the issue of revenue generation and remittances must be taken very seriously because of the need to make funds available to government treasury for development purposes particularly in the build up to the 2012 budget being prepared.

It therefore requested the accountant general to work closely with the auditor general to ensure that all revenues accruing to government were tracked to the last kobo to prevent them from ending up in private pockets.