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AUDIT AS AN INSTRUMENT FOR FIGHTING CORRUPTION

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Mr. Anthony Mkpe Ayine

Auditor-General for the Federation

When the colonial government established the Audit Ordinance of 1956, the instrument provided for the position of the Director of Audit and was meant to provide for adequate and appropriate checks and balances in the colonial financial system. The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) as amended, for the first time provided for the Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation and the appointment thereof.

With the endemic nature of corruption in the country in the past decades, and against the backdrop of public outcry for a strong institution that will help to sanitise the public financial sector, by entrenching the principles of accountability and transparency both to prevent and curb corruption, it became absolutely necessary to advance the course of the 1999 constitution by way of providing for a robust Audit Act that will make necessary provisions required to effectively carry out the mandate of the office.

Besides, the Auditor-General for the Federation, Mr Anthony Mkpe Ayine, has also recorded modest achievements in the last one year, all aimed at giving impetus to the fight against corruption.

The Audit Bill

In line with the agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to fight corruption in Nigeria to a standstill, the Auditor-General for the Federation, Mr. Anthony Mkpe Ayine, since assuming office in January 2017 has worked tirelessly, sparing no effort in rallying the support of staff and all stakeholders concerned, especially the National Assembly, to ensure that the Audit Bill is passed into law.

The Audit Bill seeks to empower the Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation to carry out audits on all government’s Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and hold them accountable for their stewardship in the use of public resources.

For over a decade, the Audit Bill had remained stuck at the National Assembly where it had undergone series of reviews, but failed to successfully pass through the scrutiny of the lawmakers. Recognizing that the job of auditors in ensuring that public officials and institutions are held to account is undeniably one of the toughest jobs in government, the Office of the Auditor General for the Federation sees the Audit Bill as a powerful instrument for addressing the issues of poor governance, wastes, inefficiency, lack of accountability and transparency in the public sector.

Objectives of the Audit Bill

The Audit Bill seeks to:

  • Provide additional powers and functions to the Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation.
  • Establish the Federal Audit Service Commission which will be responsible for handling all matters of recruitment, promotion and discipline of members of staff of the Office and the Audit Commission.
  • Repeal the Audit Ordinance of1956, the Public Accounts Committees Act CAP P35 LFN 2004; and
  • Enact the Federal Audit Service Act, 2018.

Significance of the Audit Bill

The Audit Bill, when harmonized and assented to by Mr. President, will give strong backing to the fight against corruption in Nigeria as it guarantees and safeguards operational independence of the Office the Auditor-General for the Federation as a Supreme Audit Institution(SAI), by providing for the administrative and financial independence of the SAI Nigeria. When the Bill is passed into law, the Auditor-General shall be vested with additional powers to inquire into, examine, investigate and report as he considers necessary on the expenditure of public monies and money advanced or granted to a private organization or body in which the Federal Government has controlling interest.

Management staff of the OAuGF meet with members of the Senate Public Accounts Committee in January 2018 prior to the passage of the Audit Bill by the senate.

The financial and administrative independence which the Audit Law will bestow on the Office, will complement the legal independence it already enjoys by virtue of Section 85 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended). The administrative autonomy will enable the Office (OAuGF) attract quality human capital at competitive standards for improved efficiency; as recruitment of members of staff will now be conducted professionally by the Federal Audit Service Commission. Members of staff are also expected to benefit from improved remuneration packages that will challenge them discharge their duties effectively and professionally too.

Internationally too, the Office will be placed at par with other Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) and will be accorded more respect and recognition as a credible source of independent and objective insight and guidance to support beneficial change in the public sector. This will also enable those charged with public sector governance to discharge their responsibilities in responding to audit findings and recommendations and taking appropriate corrective actions.

The political will to create the conducive environment for the Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation to function effectively as the foremost institution to ensure public accountability is not in doubt at all. Both the Executive Arm under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari and the 8th National Assembly, have amply demonstrated support to re-positioning the Audit Institution.

Where we are now

In a landmark achievement in the fight against corruption, the Audit Bill which had previously received the approval of the House of Representatives, was passed by the Senate on Thursday March 1, 2018, following the adoption of the report of the Senate Public Accounts Committee. The process of harmonisation is on-going. Once completed, the Bill will be sent to Mr. President for assent.

The 5-Year Strategic Development Plan and the Audit Manuals

Another major achievement of the Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation under the leadership of Mr. Ayine, is the launch of the 5-year Strategic Development Plan. The need for the Office to respond to the ever increasing demand from the public for a strong and responsive Institution that is capable of ensuring transparency and accountability in public resources, among other things, gave impetus to the development of the five-year Strategic Development Plan (SDP) which was launched by His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, on 21st September, 2017 with strong representation from all tiers of government and development partners.

The Auditor-General, Mr. Anthony Mkpe Ayine Chairman House of Reps. Public Accounts Committee, Hon. Kingsley Chinda Ogundu,other management staff members and invited guests, during the launch of the 5-year Strategic Development Plan at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Auditorium, in Abuja.

In his welcome remarks during the launching of the SDP, the Auditor-General for the Federation, Mr. Anthony Mkpe Ayine, stressed that the Office was the first point of call for anyone seeking to know how government was performing in resource management and service delivery, adding that the SDP is designed to reverse the ugly trend of underperformance and enhance the effectiveness of the OAuGF, increase transparency, accountability and internal financial control across agencies of the Federal Government by the year 2022.

Manuals

The manuals designed by the OAuGF in line with its mandate include: (i) the Regularity Audit Manual (RAM), (ii) Code of Ethics Manual, (iii) Communication Policy, (iv) Quality Control and Assurance Manual. The manuals were introduced to streamline the audit processes, ensure uniformity and standardization, in order to drive the reform process of the OAuGF. For instance, in order to ensure that auditor’s independence is not compromised, each member of an audit team must complete and sign the code of ethics declaration form before embarking on any audit assignment. This allows potential threat to independence, to be identified while appropriate measures, such as withdrawal of team member from the assignment, is taken on time.

Training and Capacity Building

As the foremost accountability institution in Nigeria, the Office of the Auditor General for the Federation, has the responsibility of ensuring that government business is not only conducted transparently, but that those who hold public trust are accountable for their actions through proper maintenance of accounting records and books and periodic preparation of financial statements of their stewardship. Owing to the responsibility bestowed on the Office by its constitutional mandate and the demands, the Auditor-General has continued to invest in manpower training and retraining of staff to bring his team up to speed with international best practices and standards.

IPSAS training @ the Public Service institute, Kubwa Abuja.

AFROSAI – E training at Reiz Continental Hotel, Abuja.

Training and retraining through partnerships, is an ongoing effort of the Office. In a short space of time, between October 2017 – March 2018, at least 1,700 members of staff have benefitted from several local and international training programmes. The philosophy of the Auditor-General is to make these trainings continuous. These modest achievements are going on, despite the shortfall in funds allocated it. Worthy of mention is the partnership between the UK’s National Audit Office and Nigeria’s Office of the Auditor General for the Federation, which has provided the needed technical support for different aspects of the office training programmes. Support also from the Department for International Development (DFID) has been tremendous. These efforts put together, are geared towards sharpening and improving the skills of staff for better job performance in order to achieve the mandate of the Office, and by so doing to bring to reality, the dream of the Auditor-General to place Nigeria among the first ten Supreme Audit Institutions globally.

Inter-agency Co-operation/Collaboration

Fighting corruption and blocking wastes in systems can be a huge challenge that require all hands on deck if success is to be achieved, hence the need for inter-agency collaboration and cooperation of public institutions, civil society and the public sector. The problem of lack of communication can result in lack of results. If the agencies and organisations involved in fighting corruption are not talking to each other and the information exchange between governmental institutions is hindered, not much success can be attained.

 

OAuGF Partners with NITDA

OAuGF Partners with ICPC

OAuGF Partners with CBN

OAuGF Partners ACL Africa

This explains why the Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation is constantly extending its hand of friendship to as many individuals and organizations that share in its vision of eradicating corruption and blocking all forms of waste of government resources in the public sector. The Office currently has existing relationship and collaboration with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences (ICPC), National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), African Development Bank, World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), and the United Kingdom National Audit Office among others.

OAuGF Partners World Bank

OAuGF Partners ICAN (UK Chapter)

In expanding its scope, the Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation is strengthening more inter-agency collaborations and the sharing of information between the OAuGF, EFCC, ICPC and other sister organisations in order to enhance the fight against corruption which undoubtedly is a collective responsibility.

Status Report on Audited Accounts of Parastatals

The Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation, recently identified a potential public accountability problem or risk area and submitted a status report on the non-rendition of annual Accounts by Government Parastatals, Agencies and Commissions, to the Senate Public Account Committee, who subsequently presented a status report of Parastatals to the Senate plenary, reporting violations of the constitutional provisions by these Parastatals.

Performance Audit Report

The Auditor-General also submitted an integrated environmental audit report on solid waste management in the FCT, the first of its kind, in our public accountability process.

Challenges

There are a number of challenges facing the OAuGF. Most prominent among them is the absence of an Audit Law, which will guarantee operational independence, financial and administrative autonomy, besides the legal independence. An Audit Law in place, will take care of this challenge.

Also, delay and or failure by Parastatals in the submission of Annual Audited Financial Statements (Annual Accounts), constitute a hindrance to Public Accountability. Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) are a key part of the institutional framework of democratic States and their annual reports impact on government’s accountability and decision making. When MDAs and/or Parastatals fail or delay the submission of their Accounts/Records or Audited Accounts to the Office, this affects timely preparation of the OAuGF Annual Audit Report to the National Assembly and as a result, the information contained in the report lose its capacity to influence decisions.

Another teething problem is that of office accommodation. Federal auditors are not supposed to reside in the same office with the MDAs they audit. This challenge is of serious concern to the office because undue familiarity breeds contempt. If you have EFCC or ICPC officers sharing offices with the MDAs, definitely, it will impact negatively on the performance of those institutions. In the same vein, external auditors are not supposed to remain long in the premises of the Auditee Organisations they audit.

The Office has commenced talks with relevant stakeholders with a view to ensure that adequate provisions are made in the 2019 appropriation to provide additional office accommodation for auditors. This will help the Office review the resident auditor’s status, with a view to discontinuing the policy.

Comments  

#1 Adamu Abdulmumini 2018-05-06 19:29
I really appreciate the effort of office of the Auditor General of the federation for the good inniciativi made so to enable the office discharge it's primary responsibilities.
My appeal to other relevant stakeholders is to ensure timely action in other not the initial difficulties got wasted. More Grace AGOF, thanks.
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