Auditor-General of the Federation, Mr. Samuel Ukura, yesterday accused the National Assembly of covering fraud and corrupt practices in the federal government ministries, departments and agencies by failing to pass for implementation, all the 14 audit reports forwarded to it since 1999.
Speaking at a retreat between his office and the Public Accounts Committees of both chambers of the National Assembly held in Abuja, Ukura explained that the audit reports exposed fraud and corrupt practices in the MDAs.
He noted with regret that his staff usually produced the reports after due diligence and painstaking efforts, but that the documents are usually left unattended to by the committees saddled with the responsibilities of considering them at the two chambers.
Ukura said the efforts of the present administration to tackle corruption would only achieve the desired results if the parliament treat with passion, audit reports which contain the official financial transactions of the various ministries, departments and agencies of government.
The Auditor-General 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 which 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 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, 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, columbine but we now have oil and gas and other products, he stressed.
With the law in place, the Auditor – General said his office will 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 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 Auditor-General therefore stressed the need for an effective synergy between his office and that of the PACs because the lawmakers would be able to make use of the professional expertise of the audit offices.
The office, according to him, has professional staff that can be of assistance to the public accounts committees in the discharge of their constitutional mandate.
He said, “An effective partnership between the office of the Auditor General for the Federation and the Public Accounts Committees of the National Assembly is crucial for the improved public accountability and governance that all Nigerians are yearning for”.
Representative of the Department For International Development in Nigeria, Mr. Ben Mellor, said audit reports remained the most effective tool for oversight functions and therefore urged the federal parliament to ensure its prompt consideration.
He said 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.
Mellor 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.
He noted that staff of the National Audit Department were constantly on secondment to the PAC to provide technical support in the United Kingdom, and therefore urged the federal government to consider the adoption of such practice because it will enable PAC members to understand the report of the Auditor General.
Mellor said PAC must get adequate media coverage and must play its part to ensure that their work is relevant by publishing their activities so that members of the public would know what their decision would be even before they submit their report.
Meanwhile, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and the Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, had pledged prompt consideration of audit reports in the 8th National Assembly in order to earn the respect and confidence of Nigerians.
Saraki was represented on the occasion by the Senate Minority Whip, Senator Abiodun Olujimi while Dogara was represented by the Chairman, House Committee on Public Accounts, Hon. Chinda Kingsley.
They said the new audit bill which would ensure prompt consideration of the subsequent audit reports, was been attended to by both chambers and that it had passed first reading in the House of Representatives.

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