BY SONI DANIEL
ABUJA—Shrinking allocations have stalled the auditing of accounts of the Federal Government for year 2011, even as corruption assumes a higher dimension in the country.

Investigation by Vanguard shows that with less than five months to the end of the 2012 financial year, auditors are yet to conclude the examination of the accounts of ministries, departments and agencies of the Federal Government for 2011 and present same to the National Assembly, as stipulated by the Nigerian Constitution.

The accounts of the Federal Government were last audited in 2009 and submitted to the National Assembly in 2010. Unconfirmed report indicated, however, that the 2010 annual report and accounts of the government had belatedly been forwarded last week to the Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly, whose members are on vacation, thereby stalling deliberations on it. Informed sources told our correspondent that continuous underfunding of the operations of auditors had made it difficult for them to audit and produce their reports as and when due.

Findings revealed that in the last two years for instance, the allocations to the office of the Auditor-General of the Federation, which coordinates the auditing of Federal Government’s accounts, have been dwindling for inexplicable reasons. For instance, the OAGF, which got N4,695, 167,505 in 2011, was given only N3,286, 607 in the current financial year.

The breakdown of the amount showed that  the office had N2.9 billion for recurrent expenditure and N1.7 billion for capital projects in 2011 but the allocation was slashed to N2.6 billion for recurrent and N600 million for capital programmes in 2012.

But the Auditor-General of the Federation, Mr. Samuel Ukura, declined to comment on the delay in auditing the government’s accounts. Although he initially requested for a formal letter as a condition for granting an interview on the issue, he nevertheless declined to speak to our correspondent when the letter was submitted to his office last week, insisting that he was too busy.

But a source, who craves anonymity, claimed that the audit reports for the last two years were being prepared and would soon be presented to the National Assembly.

The source admitted that they had some challenges but did not name them. It was learnt that many of the MDAs had some ‘issues’ to sort out with the auditors deployed to them but that the frequent movement of permanent secretaries, who are the accounting officers, made it impossible for such ‘discrepancies’ to be sorted out on time.

Most of the  auditors who are deployed to prime MDAs, are reported to be cautious in the discharge of their work so as not to incur the wrath of top political appointees, since an auditor-general was forced out of service for daring to query a top presidential aide some years ago.

Section 85(2) of the Constitution of the Federation Republic of Nigeria 1999, provides that the Public accounts of the Federation and of all Offices and Courts of the federation shall be audited and reported on by the Auditor-General who shall submit his report to the National Assembly yearly. For that reason, the Auditor-General or any person authorized by him shall have access to all the books, records, returns and other documents relating to federal government’s accounts. Similarly, Section 85(4) of the Constitution stipulate that the auditor-General shall have power to conduct periodic checks on all Government statutory corporations, commissions, authorities, agencies, including all persons and bodies established by an act of the National Assembly. Furthermore, Section 301 vests the Auditor-General of the Federation with the power to audit the account of Area Councils in the Federal Capital Territory.

In accordance with Section 85(5) of the 1999 Constitution, the Auditor-General is expected to within 90 days of receipt of the Accountant General’s financial statement, submit his report to each House of the National Assembly and they are expected to cause the Report to be considered by a Committee of the House of the National assembly responsible for Public accounts.

The main function of the Public Accounts Committees is to review whether public money was not spent for the approved purpose and with due regard to efficiency, economy and effectiveness.

 

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