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Mr President, sign the Federal Audit Bill

Recently both chambers of the National Assembly passed into law the Federal Audit Service Commission Bill. The proposal, which emanated from the House of Representatives, seeks to grant autonomy to the Auditor-General for the federation and establish the Federal Audit Services Commission and the office of Auditor-General of the Federation with provision for additional powers and functions. The bill, once it becomes law, will repeal the Audit Act 1956, the Public Accounts Committees Act; and enact the Federal Audit Service Bill, 2015. The same proposal was passed by the 7th National Assembly but was not signed into law by then President Goodluck Jonathan.

The main thrust of the bill is to promote transparency, accountability and good governance in most of our institutions. It empowers the office of the Auditor-General of the federation to express an opinion on whether the financial statement prepared by the government of the federation fairly represents the financial position and results of operation; carry out audit of all revenues accruing to the federation and all expenditures of the federation from all sources; carry out audit of donations, grants and loans accruable to the federal ministries, departments and agencies or other public entities; carry out performance audit by ensuring that federal government and its agencies’ businesses are economically, efficiently and effectively performed; carry out audit on classified expenditure; carry out forensic audits; carry out audit of international institutions to the extent of Nigeria’s contribution to such bodies; carry out audit of all federal government and its agencies subsidies and their application; carry out audit of all federal government and its agencies’ counterpart funded projects in the country; carry out audit of all Nigerian embassies, consulates and foreign missions; carry out audit of public private information; carry out audit of disaster related grants and aids and carry out audit of public private partnerships entered into by the federal government and its agencies to promote good governance.

Similarly, the Bill outlines the powers of the Auditor-General to include: powers to select the methodology to be adopted in respect of an audit; determine the nature and extent of audit to be carried out and request details, account statements and financial statements that he considers necessary; request in writing, any person in the employ of the federal ministries, departments and agencies and international institutions whose accounts are being audited to make an appearance at a specified place and time; or produce such records, books, vouchers and documents under the control of that person; investigate and make extracts from any record, book, document and other information of any federal ministry, department and agency or international institution whose accounts are being audited.
Since the advent of this democracy in 1999, the government has regaled us with the talk of fighting corruption but has done nothing concrete beyond setting up anti-corruption agencies that are soon channelled towards enhancing the profile or political fortunes of the president.

Usually the same government vowing to fight corruption to a standstill permit and promote corruption through its opaque structures and especially shielding itself, its agencies and particularly its cash-cow, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, from any form of accountability.
This proposed law is perhaps, the most far-reaching anti-corruption legislation that has been passed since Nigeria’s return to democracy. Like we have always stated, corruption cannot be effectively fought through intra-elite displacement or the symbolism of grand gestures.

No, the only way we can defeat corruption is through the deliberate building of strong institutions of restraints; the creation, as it were, of a capable state – one that works according to laid down rules and procedures and is thoroughly accountable to the people. That is what the bill seeks to do – and if the president, who came to power on the strength of his anti-corruption promises – is any bit interested in tackling this monster called corruption and is willing to enthrone transparency, accountability and good governance in the country, then he must sign the bill into law immediately.

Source: Business Day

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