Monday, 4th December 2023

Absence of substantive AuGF stalls public accounts committee’s works

By Joseph Chibueze, Abuja
14 August 2023   |   4:15 am
The failure of the Federal Government to appoint a substantive Auditor General for the Federation (AuGF) has put on hold the works of the public accounts committee of the House of Representatives.

MDAs not audited in three years
The failure of the Federal Government to appoint a substantive Auditor General for the Federation (AuGF) has put on hold the works of the public accounts committee of the House of Representatives.

The reports of the AuGF, which form the bulk of the works of the committee, have not been filed for three consecutive years – 2020, 2021 and 2022.

The position became vacant on 7th September 2022 after the retirement of the then substantive AuGF, Aghughu Adolphus. Since then, the government has not been able to appoint a substantive AuGF, although a director is overseeing the office.

Recently, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), Defenders of Constitutional Democracy (DCD), in a petition, urged the President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to expedite action on the appointment of a substantive AuGF.

The group had in the letter signed by its National Convener, Aliyu Abdullahi, and the Director of Contact and Mobilisation, Dr Chukwuma Okoro, said: “We want to intimate His Excellency, President Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu that Nigeria has no Auditor General for the Federation for over 10 months now.

“There is an aberration called the overseeing director, appointed by the Head of Service to act as Auditor General for the Federation. This is unheard of and is alien to the Civil Service Rules and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

The immediate past Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts, Oluwole Oke, in another petition to the President over what he called constitutional breaches in the appointment of a substantive AuGF, said the Head of Service of the Federation, Mrs Folashade Esan, contravened the provisions of the Constitution, which states that no one should occupy an office in acting capacity for more than six months.

He said the absence of a substantive AuGF has stalled the work of the public accounts committee of the National Assembly because the committee has not received the AuGF’s report for 2020, 2021 and 2022. This he said was because the only person empowered by law to file the report is AuGF.

Speaking with The Guardian in a telephone interview, a civil society activist and Executive Director of Paradigm Leadership Support Initiative (PLSI), Olusegun Elemo, said the non-appointment of a substantive AuGF is hurting the economy and raises a question on the anti-corruption crusade.

He said the issue is a lamentation on accountability campaign as the acting officer does not have the legal mandate to file any audit report.

According to him, “the reports of the Auditor General for 2020, 2021, and 2022 have not been submitted to the parliament. That is a serious issue.

“You know when reports are not submitted to parliament it means that the public accounts committee is unable to do its job. There are only two committees in the national assembly recognised by the Constitution, the committee on public accounts and the Committee on Appropriation. If the committee recognised by the Constitution is not working, it means that public accountability is on hold. Therefore, there is the need for the President to make the appointment a priority.”

Also speaking, the Executive Director, the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Auwal Ibrahim Musa, said the delay in the appointment of a substantive AuGF says a lot about the seriousness of the government in fighting corruption.

According to Ibrahim Musa who is also the Head of Transparency International, Nigeria, “If we are serious about auditing federal government resources and also ensuring accountability, the appointment of a substantive AuGF would have been one of the first and most urgent appointments of the new government.”

“There is a need for as a matter of urgency to have a substantive AuGF; it will go a long way in ensuring accountability on government resources.”

He said failure to do that means that agencies will continue to run without reporting, which is not good for the country as Nigeria has already suffered losses as a result of monumental corruption.

“It is very important that we persuade the President to as a matter of urgency appoint a substantive Auditor General for the Federation to ensure that government assets are not fraudulently diverted and people who receive money on behalf of the government must account for the money,” he said.

In his own intervention, an economist and Chief Executive Officer of the Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise (CPPE), Dr Muda Yusuf, said: “It is a major gap in our quest for probity and accountability as well as the anti-corruption fight. The President’s attention needs to be drawn to that gap so that he can take action immediately because it is also possible the people in the system are comfortable with the way things are so that it can be business as usual.”

When contacted to give an update on the Head of Press at the Federal Civil Service Commission, Mr. Taiwo Hassan, said he does not have the mandate to speak on the matter. He said it was only the Chairman of the Commission or the Permanent Secretary that could speak in it. Unfortunately, both were not available.