#TrackNigeria – Nigeria may recover billions of stolen or misappropriated public funds if the Auditor General’s reports since 1999 are investigated,an anti-corruption group, Human and Environmental Development Agenda, (HEDA) has said.
In a petition sent to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC), HEDA) want a thorough investigation of audited reports of Government corporations and parastatals dating back to 1999 when the country returned to democracy after more than two decades of military rule.
The Auditor General of the Federation (AuGF), Anthony Ayine blew the lid open in Abuja 3 weeks ago when he said that though lawmakers were empowered by the Constitution and paid to review the audited reports of government’s parastatals, they failed to live up to expectations. He also lamented that some government agencies fail to submit their audited reports. His predecessor Samuel T. Ukura had spoken in the same vein. The AuGF spoke during the retreat for 469 newly elected members of the National Assembly.
The petition signed by HEDA Chairman, Mr Olanrewaju Suraju stated “We align ourselves with positions of the incumbent and immediate past Auditor Generals of the Federation and their discontentments in relation to the failure of the legislators to review the Audit reports which would have been a major determinate in unveiling corruption across government agencies, institutions and arms. As it was revealed in the 2014 Audit report, even the legislators could not back the expenditure of N9.4 Billion with documentary evidence.”
HEDA said the statements of the Auditor Generals were enough prove that corruption is entrenched in Nigeria’s public institutions. “We believe that the losses incurred by the nation could have been prevented or at worst reversed if the legislators have not, by their flagrant failure to review the reports, turned accomplices of corruption with that dereliction of constitutional duties for which they were equally remunerated. Had they performed their statutory duties it would have resulted in proper accountability and transparency and effective scrutiny of the veracity or otherwise of the reports presented by the Auditor Generals of the Federation.”
HEDA said probing the audited reports since 1999 is in line with provisions of Section 85 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (As Amended) which states that:
85. (1) There shall be an Auditor General for the Federation who shall be appointed in accordance with the provisions of section 86 of this Constitution.
(2) 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 reports to the National Assembly; and for that purpose, the Auditor-General or any person authorised by him in that behalf shall have access to all the books, records, returns and other documents relating to those accounts.
4) The Auditor-General shall have power to conduct periodic checks of all government statutory corporations, commissions’ authorities, agencies, including all persons and bodies established by an Act of the National Assembly.
(5) The Auditor-General shall, within ninety days of receipt of the Accountant-General’s financial statement, submit his reports under this section to each House of the National Assembly and each House shall cause the reports to be considered by a committee of the House of the National Assembly responsible for public accounts.
HEDA said the legislators should have adhered to the above provisions to ensure the furtherance of the above with Section 88(2)(b) of the Constitution, which also states:
“(2) The powers conferred on the National Assembly under the provisions of this section are exercisable only for the purpose of enabling it to –
(b) expose corruption, inefficiency or waste in the execution or administration of laws within its legislative competence and in the disbursement or administration of funds appropriated by it.
HEDA regretted that the Public Account Committees responsible for reviewing the Audit Report on a yearly basis failed to do same despite being paid N100 Million combined as the annual budget and allocation for the activities. It was reported that drawing a comparison between the budget allocated to the Auditor General’s office in 2019 which was N2.95 Billion was a far cry compared to the amount allocated in 2012 ranging between N3.3 Billion and N3.1 Billion and N5.13 Billion in 2014.
“The Constitution is very succinct on the necessary provisions and the duties vested on the legislators in relation to their powers. We are in full support of the position held in the report under reference and therefore we are sending this petition to invoke the powers vested on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to demand that the Auditor General of the Federation’s Report from 1999 till 2018 be obtained for the purpose of reviewing same and exposing all the corruption in the expenditure of the government thereby leading to the exposure of looters and public fund wasters” Suraju noted.
The group said failure of the legislators to carry out their duties has led to many defaulters walking free. “Owing to this backdrop, we hereby appeal that you use your good office to ensure that this matter is properly, effectively and painstakingly investigated with a view to bringing the culprits to book and ensuring recovery of all the losses accrued from year 1999 till 2018 due to failure to review the audit report, in order to stall similar acts in the future. The report of the Auditor General of Federation is a public record which is invariably accessible and capable of assisting your Commission in the thorough investigation of the allegations”, wrote HEDA