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Audit Bill and the fight against corruption

By Hameed Oyegbade

corruption
President Muhammadu Buhari

ONE of the cardinal agenda of the  administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is the war against corruption. In fact, his desire to fight corruption was among the factors that gave him an edge in the election.

Though the administration has recorded some successes in the anti-corruption war, more still needs to be done to curtail the cankerworm, particularly when government said corruption was fighting back.

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For a successful anti-corruption battle, the audit process remains a very useful tool that cannot be left behind. This is because the public service is about adding value to citizens and society, and about continuously increasing that value.

To focus on the value that government adds, audit should be about the outcomes that benefit citizens and society and to which government activities contribute. It should also help all stakeholders play their part in continuously improving the value that governments add.

Where there are no proper checks through effective auditing, the value will be eroded and corrupt practices will thrive unhindered. To improve accountability, transparency and judicious utilisation of public resources, the Public Accounts Committee, PAC, of the Senate and House of Representatives and the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation, OAuGF, must carry out their mandate effectively.

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In a bid to enhance the audit function and empower the OAuGF to effectively discharge its constitutional mandate, the eighth National Assembly passed the Federal Audit Bill and forwarded to the President for his assent. However, President Buhari neither assented to nor declined assent to the bill. The non-assent to the bill is a cause for concern that perhaps President Buhari is not ready to institutionalise the anti-corruption fight.

It also means that either the President does not really mean his words on the war against corruption or might have been wrongly advised on the essence of the Audit Law. Now that we are in the ninth Assembly, particularly with this synergy between the current leadership of the executive and legislative arms, it is time to resuscitate the bill with a view to clearing gray areas to make for a smooth passage by the National Assembly, ready for the President’s assent.

The Chairman, Public Accounts Committees of the Senate and House of Representatives, Senator Matthew Urhoghide and Busayo Oluwole-Oke held a session of stakeholders during a three-day Stakeholders Consultative/Technical Session on the Audit Bill organised for members and staff of the Senate and House of Representatives Public Accounts Committees and the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation in Abuja recently.

The session which had the support of the Department for International Development’s Partnership to Engage, Reform and Learn, DFID-PERL, expressed the desire and commitment towards the enactment of an audit law in the country.

They assured that the ninth National Assembly will breathe a new life into the Audit Bill and ensure its passage. Senator Urhoghide lamented that the nation’s current audit practice did not meet the global best practices. He stressed that necessary reforms were needed to empower the office of the Auditor General of the Federation to function optimally and efficiently.

On his part, Oluwole-Oke observed that if the Bill becomes law, it would enable the Auditor-General to carry out his duties efficiently and effectively. He stressed that Nigeria as a member of the comity of nations should act in line with the global best practices, adding that the Audit Bill if passed and assented to would help to curtail corruption in the country.

Senators Ibikunle Amosun and Gabriel Suswam who are members of Senate Public Accounts Committee in their submissions maintained that necessary steps must be taken, including the audit law to eradicate corruption and ensure that Nigerians get value for public money utilised by those elected and appointed into public offices.

Similarly, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister for Justice emphasised the importance of an enabling legal framework and adequate resourcing for the OAuGF to enable it complement the fight against corruption. He challenged the OAuGF and the NASS PACs to reflect on their mandate and processes with a view to bridging inherent gaps.

The Minister for Finance, Budget and Planning who was represented by the Permanent Secretary, stressed the importance of auditing in effective public financial management.

The head, technical support, Partnership to Engage, Reform and Learn, PERL, and Engaged Citizens, EC, Mr John Mutu, who facilitated the session, explained that it was aimed at building consensus between the NASS, the Executive and the OAuGF to ensure that the audit bill succeeds in becoming a law.

Mutu explained that the objective of the session was to provide a platform for the National Assembly’s Public Account Committees, NASS PACs, the OAuGF and the Presidency to reflect and review the Audit Bill so as to identify areas of concerns that prevented the President from giving his assent to the bill.

The national team leader, Engaged Citizens Pillar, ECP, of DFID-funded PERL, Dr. Adiya Ode, observed that the OAuGF plays a critical role in the fight against corruption which is one of the major agenda of President Buhari’s administration.

Dr. Adiya noted that if government was committed to fighting corruption, the audit law was a useful mechanism to achieve the objective. She said that having the audit law in place would strengthen the Auditor- General to perform his functions well and also send signal to corrupt people that they would be exposed and prosecuted.

In conclusion, having realised that audit law is a useful tool to help Nigeria deal with corruption and even nip corrupt tendencies in the bud, all hands must be on deck to ensure speedy passage of the Audit Bill by the ninth Assembly and assent by President Buhari, so that Nigeria will nail the coffin of corruption and bury it.

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