By Ibrahim HassanWuyo
Governor Nasiru Ahmad El-Rufai of Kaduna state has said that ‘’local government system has been badly abused and the only way we can achieve any sanity is to have very strong audit functions, a very strong audit cadre with an independent Auditor-General for the Local Government that is not beholden to anyone. ‘
He said that Kaduna state will support any step that will strengthen the capacities of auditors to check corruption, fraud and abuse in the system.
El-Rufai who made this known when delegates of the 25th annual conference of Auditors-General of Local Governments paid him a courtesy call at Sir Kashim Ibrahim House on Thursday, promised that “any constitution amendment that will give you that power and capacity, I want to assure you, we will support it.’’
Governor El Rufai also expressed optimism that the Nigerian Governors’ Forum will throw its weight behind such an amendment.
‘’In fact, the reluctance of some state governors to grant autonomy to local governments, is because there isn’t a strong audit function in the local government. Resources just get frittered away. And for those pushing for more autonomy for the local governments, I think the first step is to ensure that there is an Auditor General for Local Governments,’’ he said.
The governor stressed that ‘’ it will be dangerous to allow the local governments full autonomy unless they have very strong audit functions. And in many states, that is not the case. We are trying to build our own capacity here.’’
‘’We have enacted an audit law, but we focused the law on the state Auditor-General. We are going to rectify that to include the Auditor-General for Loca Governments.
‘’We are going to have the appropriate legislation that will empower the Auditor-General to do his job independent of everyone. And we are going to do whatever we can, to provide the resources to enable the Auditor General of our local governments to do his job,’’ he said.
Kaduna state, he said, has experimented autonomy for local governments.
‘’We don’t take a penny of their money, you can ask them, you can ask your colleague.’’
‘’As soon as the allocation form the Federation Account comes, we schedule JAAC meetings and once the deductions for primary school teachers, primary healthcare staff are done, we give them their resources.”
‘’And there has not been too much abuse of this autonomy. Most of our local government chairmen have done pretty well, they have used their resources quite well to develop their local governments. So, we have no regrets and we think that we should do more,’’ he said.
El-Rufai reiterated that ‘’the local governments are the tier very close to the people, we must make them to function and we are trying to make them function. Most of them have done very well and we are very proud of them.’’
The governor said that his administration is looking for ways to restructure the local government so that they can execute projects after paying salaries, adding that “many of them are in trouble now because we have implemented the new minimum wage.’’
Earlier, the Chairman of Auditors-General for Local Government and Area Councils in Nigeria, Mr Abel Oghenevo Esievo, thanked El-Rufai for the assistance that his administration has been rendering their office.
Mr Esievo also thanked the governor for enabling the state to meet the deadline set by the World Bank on the Disbursement Link Indicator(DLI).
He described El-Rufai as a wonderful governor for the timely preparation of the Kaduna state Audit Law which has been sent to Kaduna State House of Assembly.
He pleaded with El-Rufai to support the constitution amendment that will give recognition to the office of the Auditor-General, just like the how the Nigerian Governors’ Forum supported the State Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability(SIFTAS) programme.