The House of Representatives has vowed to name and shame Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) that refuse to appear before it with their audited reports. The Chairman, House Committee on Public Accounts, Rep. Wole Oke, disclosed this during an investigative public hearing into the presentation of audit reports of MDAs on Monday, February 3, 2020. The committee is investigating the allegations of deliberate and reckless refusal by non-treasury funded MDAs to render accounts to the Office of the Accountant-General to the Federation (OAGF).
Oke said the on-going investigation was necessary following reports of the growing number of MDAs that refused to submit their reports to the OAGF, adding that the investigation was in line with the constitutional responsibility of the House to oversight MDAs. He clarified that the action by the committee was not intended to usurp the functions of the OAGF. He also stated that the refusal by any MDA to show up would only mean that it has something to hide. “We are only asking you, bring your audited accounts. If you have submitted it to the auditor-general, show us proof; we are only saying that based on the records that we have, so many agencies have refused to comply with the provision of the constitution and relevant statutes,” Oke added.
Speaking further on the matter, Oke disclosed that they have agreed as a committee that only the managing directors, chief executive officers or the directors of accounts of the various institutions present at the hearing could present reports. He argued, “Mr President can only give you a job but he cannot do the job for you. If we like to be MDs or CEOs, so why don’t we like to render accounts? You can discharge your duties when discharging money but when it comes to accountability, you shy away. If the MD of Bank of Industry can be here, Director of DPR can be here, Nigerian Export-Import Bank can be here, why won’t others?”
According to Oke, 323 MDAs failed to submit their audited reports to the OAGF in 2016; 215 MDAs in 2015; 148 MDAs in 2014; 109 MDAs in 2013; 85 MDAS in 2012; and 76 MDAS in 2011. He also said the Auditor-General (AuGF)’s Report for 2016 was received in July 2018, after a two-year delay. The reports for 2017 were received by the National Assembly in 2019. He said the 2018 and 2019 reports are yet to be presented to the National Assembly over a month into 2020.
While the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) failed to submit reports of its audited accounts for the past six years, the Managing Director of the Federal Housing Authority (FHA), Umar Salihu Gonto, confessed at the ongoing public hearing of the House Committee on Public Accounts that the accounts of the FHA had not been audited for the past 16 years. Gonto said he was new as the managing director, adding that the FHA is not a revenue-generating agency.
It is sad that the non-compliance by MDAs to constitutional provisions is happening under an administration whose three cardinal principles include the fight against corruption.
Section 85(4) of the country’s 1999 constitution empowers the AuGF 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.” He is authorised by Section 85(2) to have access to, audit and report on all the books, records, returns and other documents relating to accounts of MDAs. It is thus unbecoming that the AuGF’s reports should suffer long delays.
The statistics of non-treasury funded MDAs that refuse to submit their audited accounts keep rising annually because defaulters in previous years were never sanctioned. Similarly, belated submission of AuGF’s report over a long period developed into a norm because no one was ever asked to take responsibility for the consistent failures; sometimes as late as two years behind schedule. Such laissez-faire is a cloaked avenue for the perpetration of corrupt practices.
While we urge the Oke-led House Committee to invoke provisions of Section 89(d) of the 1999 Constitution by issuing a warrant “to compel the attendance of any person who, after having been summoned to attend, fails, refuses or neglects to do so…”, we encourage both OAGF and the AuGF to be prompt in submitting their reports to the National Assembly as provided by the constitution. Their reports will help lawmakers to expose corruption or waste in the management of public funds.