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Need for an audit act very critical - Head of Service

 

Group photograph of staff of the OAuGF and OHCSF at the end of the Peer Review meeting held on Thursday November 15th 2018, at the Audit House Abuja.

The Head of Service of the Federation, Winifred Ekanem Oyo-Ita, has lent her voice to the call for the speedy passage of the Audit Bill, stressing that an Audit Act will enable the Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation (OAuGF) carry out its constitutional functions.

Oyo-Ita made the call at the Audit House in Abuja on Thursday 15th November, 2018 when she led a peer-review delegation to understand and assess the operations and achievements of the Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation, (OAuGF), in line with its mandate.

She explained that an Audit Act will give the OAuGF the administrative and financial autonomy it requires to carry out its duties effectively and be at par with other Supreme Audit Institutions worldwide, adding that it was an abnormality for auditors to be resident with the entities that they audit.

“The audit bill has gone quite far already…It is now being finalized by the National Assembly to go on to Mr. President for assentation. It will be very good once this Act comes...Right now the Auditor- General’s office is just operating and being treated as another MDA or part of the government structure. They are not having enough teeth to carry out their functions effectively,” the Head of Service stated.

R-L: Permanent Secretary (OSGF) Amina Bello Shamaki, the Head of the Civil service for the Federation,  Winifred Ekanem Oyo-Ita, the Auditor-General for the Federation, Anthony Mkpe Ayine, the Permanent Secretary (Trade & Investment), Akpan Edet Sunday, at the end of the Peer Review of the Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation on 15th November, 2018  at the Audit House, Abuja.

She said further, “The Auditor-General is trying very hard, especially with his team in the area of capacity development. You can see that in the last three years they have done a lot of trainings and they have engaged with a lot of development partners, especially the World Bank. Recall I also made a comment that we the auditees who receive the federal auditors are already witnessing improvement in their level of professionalism and interaction, when they go out for audit.”

Oyo-Ita explained that the essence of the peer review is for groups of permanent secretaries headed by the Head of Service to visit other permanent secretaries in their offices to gain a deeper knowledge of the operations of the office viz-a-viz their mission and vision.

“We also interact with the host and meet his other management team and of course the union to get to know their operations better. This also gives us the opportunity to make our own humble suggestions, give our advice, ask questions like we did today and this peer review has proved very useful for us in the service,” she said.

Providing details on the operations of the OAuGF earlier, the Auditor-General for the Federation, Anthony Mkpe Ayine, said Nigeria has no extant Audit Law and that the current set up of the OAuGF does not give it the functional independence that is required under international standards.

Ayine said administrative autonomy for the office will be achieved with the approval of the Audit Act, as the office will be responsible for administering its affairs in line with global best practices and the Lima Declaration of 1977, and that financial autonomy is equally necessary to ensure that finances of the Office are not hampered by bureaucratic bottlenecks which will affect the smooth running of its affairs.

“Over the years, the Office has been faced with insufficient funding pattern. At different times and venues, presentations have been made to convince the Budget Office on the need to consider the Office's allocations outside the envelope system knowing fully well that the work of this Office covers the entire nation and over 116 Diplomatic Missions,” he said.

The Auditor-General further noted, “In West Africa, Nigeria is one of the few still operating a non-functional independent Supreme Audit Institution (SAI), that is, a SAI that is only legally independent, but still largely dependent operationally and administratively.”

Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Winifred Ekanem Oyo-Ita, looking with rapt attention as the Auditor-General For the Federation, Anthony Mkpe Ayine, explains the activities of his Office during the PEER Review meeting held at the Audit House Abuja, on Thursday 15th November 2018.

On the accomplishments of the Office, Ayine said his Office has witnessed noticeable increase in its staff strength from 1,457 in 2016 to 1714 at the beginning of 2018 with at least 65% of the total staff as professionals. Trainings in relevant areas like the financial and compliance auditing techniques, Accrual Basis IPSAS, IT Audit, Performance Audit and so on, are also ongoing to further equip staff in line with the Strategic Development Plan (2017-2022) of the Office.

Four major IT Audits are underway in some areas that have generated lots of attention from Nigerians over the past few years, with significant amount of the fieldwork already done. The audits include Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information Systems (IPPIS) and Government Integrated Financial Management and Information Systems (GIFMIS).

Others are the Nigerian Immigration Service e-passport system and Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) – National Drivers’ License Scheme (NDLS) and the National Vehicle Identification System (NVIS). The reports of these audit investigations are expected to be published soon.

In addition, three major Performance audits on the Treasury Single Account (TSA), management of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the effectiveness of the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN), have also been initiated.

The Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation operates from the Audit House which does not have the capacity to accommodate its over 1700 staff and as a result, it still maintains resident auditors at various ministries, a practice that falls short of international best practice.

At the end of the presentation, members of the Peer Review team had the opportunity to ask further questions to clarify grey areas, making the meeting very interactive.

Oghenekevwe Ebireri

For: D. D. (Information)

15th November, 2018.

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