Lagos, Benue rank lowest in public fund management, utilisation
Lagos and Benue states have been ranked the least on transparency and accountability in the management and utilisation of public fund in Nigeria.
The Subnational Audit Efficacy (SAE) Index Report for 2021 by the Paradigm Leadership Support Initiative (PLSI) also revealed that 19 states failed to publish their full audit report for 2020 financial year, thereby limiting citizens’ ability to engage public officials using audit information.
The Executive Director, PLSI, Segun Elemo, while presenting the report, in Abuja, disclosed that Bauchi and Osun states came first on the index report having scored 83 percent; followed by Akwa Ibom and Ekiti states that came 3rd and 4th with 86 percent, while Lagos and Benue states were 35th and 36th with 41 and 39 percent respectively.
He lamented that only 11 out of 36 states evaluated conducted either compliance or performance audit on public expenditure in 2021, which means 25 states did not take active measures to ensure adherence to procurement and financial regulations by government agencies, thereby limiting their states ability to achieve value for money, especially on projects implemented in 2020.
Elemo explained that the 2021 SAE index involved assessment along six scoring criteria of audit legal framework, audit mandate, type of audit document produced and published type of audit conducted, citizen participation in audit process and role of public accounts committee.
Stressing the need for a visible improvement in enacting audit legal framework in all 36 states, Elemo said the implementation of the laws has been slow despite the issuance of letter to commence implementation.
The report further lamented that citizens participation in the audit process is very poor across 17 states, while Public Account Committees in 31 state Houses of Assembly are either less effective or not effective, thereby short circuiting the potency of the public audit action cycle as legislators at the state level either lack required capacity to perform their statutory oversight functions on public accounts or are unwilling to do so.
The SAE 2021 index report recommended the need for governors to muster political will to enhance implementation of new audit laws, especially the clause bothering on financial autonomy by the Auditor General Office in their states.
Elemo also urged governors to constitute and inaugurate Audit Service Commission Board, adding that supreme audit Institutions at the subnational level require independent technology infrastructure such as website to independently publish audit reports without relying on the executive.
He also stressed that implementation of citizens’ accountability report by states should continue and be scaled to involve more stakeholders.