There is fire currently raging at Nigeria’s Audit House as a result of concerns expressed by a group of concerned staff in a petition dated 4th May, 2016, against the auditor-general of the federation, Samuel T. Ukura. Among the allegations is that since he was appointed the AuGF in opaque circumstances on 15th June, 2010, transparency and accountability have taken flight from the office. Rather, the sentiment is that they have been truncated on the altar of alleged selfishness, administrative ineptitude and above all, financial heist of unimaginable magnitude.
Right from the onset, Samuel T. Ukura’s appointment as the auditor-general of the federation straight from his previous position as auditor-general of Benue State was said to have stood the extant rules and regulations of public service on its head because it was done through what his critics insinuate was the forgery of the signature of the late President Umar Musa Yar’adua. For such a high profile and sensitive office, which defining essence is utmost transparency, Ukura’s alleged illegal appointment negates the essence of it all.
According to the petitioners, monumental corruption, running into billions of naira have been perpetrated by Mr. Ukura. The auditor-general was alleged to have collected the sum of two hundred and forty million naira (N240m) as tax and agency fees from the federal government in respect of the purchase of the Audit House in 2012 and refused to pay the agreed 5% fee to the estate agent.
In 2014, the National Assembly approved the sum of over N600m for Audit House, while in February 2015, the sum of N238, 752, 917.62 was equally allocated, totaling over N912m. Many people are asking how Mr. Ukura spent the money and are curious that he gives account of this princely amount satisfactorily, because according to the petition, the audit office used “arrangee consultancy firms to audit the account of government agencies.”
Similarly, the AuOGF was also alleged to have embarked on the path of unconstitutionality by appointing an external auditor for the NNPC, a transaction said to be shady covering millions of naira. Furthermore, there are allegations that in spite of huge allocations running into billions of naira to the OAuGF, Mr. Ukura deliberately refused to settle running costs of state offices of the auditor-general’s office in the 36 states of the federation. Equally alarming are allegations that payment of salaries of casual workers such as cleaners, messengers and gardeners in the state offices have not been paid since March 2014.
One striking allegation is that of duplication of expenditures. One veritable example is that of ‘rehabilitation/repairs of office buildings.’ While the sum of over N50m was presented as having been spent for that purpose under overhead votes, another outrageous sum of over N91m was alleged to have been expended for the same purpose under capital votes.
Mr. Ukura was also alleged to have misappropriated huge amount of money for financial consulting, a development considered highly unnecessary since the extra-ministerial department of the auditor-general’s office, which is responsible for vetting the audited financial statements of all federal government parastatals, agencies and commissions, is already saddled with that responsibility.
Even the manner of award of the contract for the purchase of 20 Peugoet 508 cars is said to lack convincing transparency, with the traducers of the auditor-general insisting that several of such cars are gathering dust within the office premises as they have not been put to use.
Recriminations are also flying right, left and centre at the audit house where some members of staff have been accused of colluding with the AuGF to perpetrate alleged financial scam currently hemorrhaging the office to death. Apart from allegations bordering on corruption, the auditor-general’s other alleged sin is administrative ineptitude cum professional incompetence. In his audit report of 2012, he reported that NNPC failed to remit only a paltry sum of $1.48billion to the federation account, instead of the generally-acknowledged whopping $20billion, the group said alleging compromised.
Those angling for his head insist that it is the desire to cover the above mountain of alleged financial malfeasances that informed Mr. Ukura’s tragic decision to stay put in office instead of proceeding on pre-retirement leave.
It is therefore not surprising that the angst among the staff of Audit House is as tall as Mount Kilmanjaro? It is both pervasive and palpable. And the reason for this is evidently their perception that the auditor-general is too detached from them. Under Ukura’s leadership, the nation’s audit house has slide down the ladder of development so much so that it has become a reference point for scam and maladministration.
“The nation’s audit house today lies crestfallen like an abandoned hut having being allegedly gang-raped”, observed a staff of the audit house, adding that “After almost six years of sleep walking under the present leadership, the Audit House is certainly in urgent need of a capable, prudent and selfless hand from within the office.
Edmund is a public affairs analyst based in Abuja