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Welcome Address of the Auditor-General For The Federation at COAGN 2021

Welcome Address of the Auditor-General For The Federation,

Aghughu Adolphus Arhotomhenla, JP, FCNA, FCTI

at the Opening Ceremony of the

Conference of Auditors-General In Nigeria (COAGN) 2021

Holding At The Banquet Hall, Government House,

Benin City, Edo State

Between 5th And 10th December 2021.

Protocols

Vision

To be a foremost Audit Institution, applying best professional practices towards fostering good governance & providing leadership to other Supreme Audit Institutions

Mission

To audit the Nation’s accounts in the most professional & transparent manner, ensuring value for money in government financial activities for the benefit of the Nigerian people

It is an honour and great privilege to deliver this address as I welcome our special guest of honour, his Excellency, Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and other invited guests to yet another Conference of Auditors-General in Nigeria (COAGN) 2021. This is an annual event that brings the Auditors-General in the three tiers of government in Nigeria together to enable them to share experiences and get acquainted with emerging issues in public sector auditing. Words will not suffice to describe the ecstatic mood of the Auditors-Generals when the news broke that his Excellency has yet again, confirmed his readiness to declare open this year COAGN holding in Benin City, Edo State.

Your Excellency, permit me to place on record that this is the first time, in the history of this country, that a sitting President will be addressing Auditors-General in Nigeria for two consecutive years running, 2020 and 2021. By this singular act, Your Excellency, you have planted your footprint on sands of time as not just a leader who abhors, despise and wage war against corruption, but a pillar of support for accountability institutions such as the Offices of the Auditors-General, to discharge their constitutional roles without let or hindrance. I wish to announce to this audience that Mr President has never interfered in the discharge of my functions since I assumed office in February this year. This is the spirit of section 85(6) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) which states “In the exercise of his functions under this Constitution, the Auditor-General shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other authority or person.” Consequently, the theme of this conference “Securing Audit Independence Sustainability: The Urgency of Now ” was chosen to enable the Auditors-General to come up with recommendations on how to entrench, as a lasting legacy, across the three tiers of government, what obtains at the federal level. This is in tandem with the United Nations General Assembly Resolutions on Independence of Audit Institutions with reference A/66/209 of 22nd December 2011 and 66/228 of 19th December 2014 which state, “Promoting the efficiency, accountability, effectiveness and transparency of public administration by strengthening the supreme audit institutions.” The sub-themes of this conference have been carefully selected and assigned to people who have made their marks in their various fields of endeavours as Resource Persons.

Your Excellency, your presence today has given the Auditors-General the needed tonic and morale booster to take stock of what has happened since COAGN 2020 where you challenged us with a pertinent and thought-provoking question as ”Have you made a meaningful contribution or have you left things as you met them and permitted ‘business to continue as usual.” Your presence will also act as an impetus to the Auditors-General to come up with lasting means `to secure audit independence sustainability in Nigeria in accordance with the theme of this year COAGN. As the Auditor-General for the Federation, permit me, your Excellency, to briefly outline a bit of what has happened at the Federal level since you last addressed us.

  1. Timely submission of Report

On assumption of Office as the Auditor-General for the Federation, following my confirmation by the Senate on 25th February 2021, I made timely submission of Audit Reports my top priority and within six months, I submitted the following:

  1. Auditor-General for the Federation’s Annual Reports on FGN CFS for the year ended 31st December 2018 submitted on 25th March 2021, exactly one (1) Month of my appointment as the Auditor-General for the Federation.
  2. Auditor-General for the Federation’s Annual Reports on FGN CFS for the year ended 31st December 2019 submitted on 18th August, and
  • Auditor-General for the Federation’s Annual Reports on Non-compliance/Internal Control Weaknesses Issues in MDAs of the Federal Government of Nigeria for the year ended 31st December 2019 dated 15th September 2021

 I initiated and implemented a reform that makes it possible for the Auditor-General for the Federation to submit Annual Reports to the National Assembly within 90 days of receipt of the Accountant-General of the Federation’s Consolidated Financial Statements in accordance with section 85(5) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended). As we speak your Excellency, there is no report on my table that I have not issued.

  1. Response to audit Queries by Accounting Officers.

I am pleased to report to your Excellency that there has been significant improvement in response time to audit queries by Accounting Officers of MDAs since you re-emphasized the need for them to do so in your speech at the COAGN 2020 as a follow up to your earlier directive in 2015. More audited financial statements are now being forwarded for Auditor-General for the Federation’s comments as required by section 85(4) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).

  1. State Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability (SFTAS) Program for Result – Credit Number 6296-NG

Through your leadership by example, you have, through SFTAS Program for Result, entrenched the culture of good governance, accountability and transparency at the State level. It would be recalled that SFTAS is a loan to the Federal Government but grants to states based on achievement of verifiable Disbursement Link Indicators (DLIs) within time frame specified in the framework. My role as an Independent Verification Agent (IVA) is to ensure that these DLIs are verified as achieved (with evidence) and submit reports to facilitate disbursement to deserving states. It may interest your Excellency to note that, through this singular action of yours, States have tremendously:

  1. Improve financial reporting and budget reliability
  2. Increased openness and citizen’s engagement in the budget process
  • Improved cash management and reduced revenue leakages through the implementation of State TSA
  1. Strengthened Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) collection
  2. Established biometric registration and bank verification number (BVN) used to reduce payroll fraud
  3. Improved procurement practices for increased transparency and value for money
  • Strengthened public debt management and fiscal responsibility framework
  • Improved clearance/reduction of the stock of domestic expenditure arrears
  1. Improved debt sustainability, and with additional financing
  2. Enhanced transparency and accountability of funds in the COVID-19 responses and resilient recovery phases
  3. Provided structured tax relief in response to COVID-19 and strengthened tax administration to enhance non-oil tax collection in the resilient recovery phase, and
  • Established a fiscally sustainable response to COVID-19 responsive budgets.
  • Stimulated the Enactment and implementation of State Audit Law (US$ 2 million) with provision of resources for implementation of financial autonomy where 33 States passed State Audit Laws by end July 2021.  All States that fully met the DLI requirements will receive their grants in December 2021. State Audit Law provides operational, financial and administrative independence of Auditors-General at States and Local Governments which your Excellency noted during our conference last year as possible debilitating factors preventing them “to deliver a high level of performance”.
  • For my Office to continue to provide the required leadership at the centre, the non-enactment of Federal Audit Service Law has been a major requirement for audit independence at the Federal level.
  1.  Resourcing and Training of Staff on modern audit methodology

On assumption of office, I activated one core project in our Strategic Plan launched in September 2017 which has defied all efforts at bringing it to fruition, the Forensic Audit Laboratory. Equipping of audit staff with modern audit methodology was one major item in the communique issued at the end of COAGN 2020. I am happy to inform your Excellency that the Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation with the support of Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) commissioned the state-of-the-art forensic audit laboratory on June 7th 2021 by the Permanent Secretary FCTA- Olusade Adesola. So far, a total of Sixty Eight (68) Forensic Auditors have been trained. The first batch of these certified forensic auditors (21 in number) has been assigned to various MDA to carry out forensic audit assignments, the reports of which will soon be submitted. The coming on stream of our forensic audit laboratory has further enhanced the efficiency of our Information Technology (IT) Audit Unit. The emergence of forensic auditors will ensure appropriate and admissible evidence are garnered to support audit findings. This will go a long way in assisting to prosecute corruption cases if eventually taken to courts by agencies responsible for the prosecution of offenders in Nigeria. Your Excellency, the other good news is that other anti-corruption agencies can leverage on the facilities at our forensic audit laboratory to analyse various evidence like fingerprint, voice, signatures, handwriting, electronic messages, etc.

  1. Reinvigoration of Performance Audit

I have since revived and repositioned our performance audit, which was almost in comatose at the time I assumed office as the Auditor-General for the Federation on 25th February 2021. As we speak Your Excellency, Performance Audit Reports including that on Utilisation of funds released to Federal Government Agencies from the Federal Government Asset Recovery Accounts from 2015 – 2020 and Pre-Shipment Inspection and Monitoring of Crude Oil and Gas Exports by Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning (FMoFB&NP), for the period January 2016 to December 2020 are being concluded and would soon be issued, with several others at various stages of completion. The audit recommendations will help make positive impacts on the quality of service delivery by government agencies, ensure value for money as well as facilitate optimum allocation of scarce resources.

  1. My Role as the Chairperson, African Union Board of External Auditors

I was elected Chairperson, African Union Board of External Auditors (AUBoEA), the very first time a Nigerian is occupying this position on 23rd February 2021 when I was overseeing the Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation. My election was made possible because of Your Excellency’s anti-corruption crusade and the good governance, that you have taken to the Continent. As soon as I was nominated for the position of Chairperson, Auditors-General of other countries who had earlier been nominated withdrew. Consequently, I was elected by my colleagues unopposed for a tenure of two years. Following my election as the Chairperson of AUBoEA, I successfully completed the audit of African Union Consolidated Financial Statements for the year ended 31st December 2020, comprising those of African Union, its Organs and Offices across the Continent of Africa and beyond. The report was submitted in record time to the Permanent Representatives Committee (PRC) of the African Union on 8th June 2021. In addition, the Audit Strategy for the audit for the year ended 31st December 2021 financial year that will commence 1st Quarter 2022 was developed, presented and approved by the Board at its meeting held virtually on  November 16-19, 2021.  The Audit Report of African Union Consolidated Financial Statements for the year ended 31st December 2021 will be issued and presented before the end of May 2022.

  1. My Role as the President, Africa Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions Working Group on Environmental Auditing (AFROSAI-WGEA)

As the President of AFROSAI-WGEA, I successfully organized a virtual one-week environmental audit training for member SAIs on “Auditing of Water Resources” between 12-14 July 2021. Though AFROSAI-WGEA had in 2014 during the 4th AFROSAI-WGEA Annual General Meeting in Kenya adopted the policy to start the co-operative environmental audit of Niger River among the Nine (9) member countries of Niger Basin Authority (NBA), including Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Cote d’ Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Niger and Nigeria, implementation was abandoned. I am happy to report that the 9 member Countries held their 1st Strategy Planning Meeting on the Co-operative Environmental Audit of Niger River between 28th November and 3rd December 2021 at Hotel Tenere, Niamey, Niger Republic. This audit is being conducted based on lessons learnt from the successful completion of the Cooperative Environmental Audit of the Drying up of the Lake Chad (2012-2015) by Lake Chad Basin Commission member countries of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria. Two (2) key outcomes of the Niamey meeting attended by representatives of  the SAIs of the Nine (9) countries of  NBA include:

  1. The approved Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to be signed by the Heads of the 9 participating SAIs;
  2. The MoU contains the summary of the framework for the cooperative audit, the objectives/sub-objectives, audit problem(s), lines of inquiry, etc, and
  • The Audit work plan to commence actual audit fieldwork in February 2021 at the level of individual participating county
  1. Issuance of Quality Audit Reports at States and Local Government Levels.

To my colleagues, I have seen a remarkable improvement in the number of States meeting the SFTAS Disbursement-Linked-Indicators (DLIs) on timely submission of audited financial statements. The attainment of these DLIs wouldn’t have been possible without you playing your part. While I commend you for this feat, I want to remind you that his Excellency challenged us last year that he has not seen anything other than clean audit reports of any State as far as anyone can remember. Let me state that the qualification of Audit Report, based on audit findings is not an indictment on the Executives but a wake-up call, unless fraud is suspected, that certain things, especially those leading to misstatements for instance, should be addressed. We should be seen to be above board by the public who expect nothing less than accountability for public funds. The Conference of Auditors-General (COAGN) 2021 presents to us, yet, another opportunity to critically, more than ever before, assess our performances, especially post lockdown, occasioned by the covid-19 pandemic. I will be sharing with you how my office has been able to deploy new audit techniques to cope with the emerging challenges brought about by the pandemic and was able to conduct audit and table reports in record time both in Nigeria and on the Continent of Africa. I have no doubt therefore that you will participate actively and bring your wealth of experience to bear at this conference.

May I at this juncture, on behalf of Auditors-General in Nigeria, salute our distinguished guests, particularly our Chief Host, His Excellency, Godwin Obaseki, the Executive Governor of Edo State for providing us with Government House Baquet Hall for this conference free of charge as we also appreciate you for other supports given us. To our major stakeholders, the Parliamentarians, this conference will afford us the opportunity to build more on our existing relationship. The ultimate beneficiaries will be the Nigerian people.

I wish His Excellency, our special guest of honour, the Chief host and other distinguished invited guests God’s blessing

Long Live The Conference of Auditors-General in Nigeria (COAGN) 2021.

Long Live The Federal Republic Of Nigeria

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