Parties grumble over abolishment of grants.
The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, is yet to dispatch its external auditors to audit the accounts of the 25 registered political parties in Nigeria for 2012- five months into the New Year.
Officials of some of the parties who spoke to PREMIUM TIMES said though they are averse to opening their accounts to INEC’s auditors since the disbursement of grants has been abolished, the auditors are yet to show up to scrutinize their accounts for last year at their secretariats.
The 1999 Constitution (amended) and the Electoral Act 2010 (amended) require all registered political parties to submit financial reports to the Commission both annually and in relation to elections.
Each party is also required to grant the auditors access to examine their records and audited accounts.
Section 89 (1) says, “A political party shall submit to the Commission a detailed annual statement of assets and liabilities and analysis of its sources of funds and other assets, together with statement, of its expenditure in such a form as the Commission may from time to time require.”
Subsection 2 says “The Statement of assets and liabilities referred to in subsection (1) of this section shall be in respect of the period 1st January to 31st December in each year, and that in the year which this Act comes into operation, it shall be for the period beginning with the registration of such party and ending on the following 31stDecember.
The same requirements are spelt out in Section 15 (d) of the Third Schedule, Sections 225 (6) and 226 (3) of the 1999 Constitution (amended).
The auditors usually visit the parties to scrutinize their financial records within the first three months of a new year.
Spokesman of the Congress for Progressive Change, Rotimi Fashakin, said INEC auditors are yet to show up at the party secretariat for the purpose of checking its audited financial records for 2012.
“No, they have not come to our secretariat this year for that purpose,” Mr. Fashakin told PREMIUM TIMES in a telephone interview.
Mr. Fashakin’s counterpart in the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, Emma Eneukwu, also said that he is not aware of the auditors’ visit to the party’s secretariat this year to audit the party’s accounts.
The National Chairman of Kowa Party, Umar Kumshe, said the auditors visited the party secretariat last in 2012 in connection with the 2011 financial records.
The National Secretary of African Democratic Congress, ADC, Sai’d Abdullahi, told PREMIUM TIMES that the party officials have not seen the auditors.
The INEC Deputy Director of Political Party Monitoring, Regina Omo-Agege could not state categorically if the Commission has sent the auditors to the parties as required when PREMIUM TIMES spoke with her.
“We’re doing that,” Mrs. Omo-Agege said, adding “they are trying in area of compliance.”
Kayode Idowu, the Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman, who was also not categorical, merely retorted, “I’m sure your company’s (PREMIUM TIMES) account is not ready by now.”
The Lead Director of Centre for Social Justice, CSJ, a non-governmental organization, Eze Onyekpere, told PREMIUM TIMES that by now INEC ought to have sent out the auditors; but added that it is better late than never.
He said, “By section 226 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), INEC is under obligation to prepare and submit to the National Assembly, NASS, a report on the accounts and balance sheet of each political party and in arriving at its position, it should conduct an audit to enable it form an opinion as to whether proper books of accounts and proper records have been kept by the political party.
“INEC should have by now sent out auditors to the political parties but if they have not done so, it is better late than never.”
Mr. Onyekpere, however, argued that what is more important is what the National Assembly does with the reports on the audited accounts of the parties submitted by INEC.
“For me, the more important question is what NASS will do with the report when submitted to it by INEC. Essentially, what have they done with previous reports submitted by them by INEC?
“It is the intention of the Constitution that NASS will review the report and take necessary action or give further directives on them. But since the inception of the current civil administration in 1999, nothing so far has been done by NASS on reports submitted to it by INEC.”
Meanwhile, some of the parties are reportedly not comfortable in granting the auditors access to their accounts, citing the stoppage of grants from the Federal Government through the Commission.
Following the amendment of the Electoral Act in 2010, providing grants to parties by the Federal Government through INEC was abolished.
Mr. Kumshe, who recounted that his party’s last encounter with the auditors on the 2011 accounts was “harsh,” argued that it is wrong for INEC to have access to the financial records of the parties because the funds to keep the party are generated by members alone.
“Can you imagine checking accounts for which you did not provide money?” he queried in an interview with PREMIUM TIMES.
When asked if the parties would seek amendment to the Constitution to address the issue, Mr. Kumshe said the matter was raised during the last meeting between INEC and the parties at the Commission’s headquarters in March; but no concrete decision was reached.
Mr. Onyekpere faulted the position of the Kowa Party chair, insisting that the obligation of the parties to report to the commission is not dependent on public funding.
“The obligation of political parties to report to INEC on their expenses is not contingent on public funding of political parties. It is predicated on some higher values including transparency and accountability,” the CSJ chief said.
“Ideally, a political party (when its candidates are elected) forms the government and should be able to demonstrate its capacity to account to Nigerians whether they receive public funding or not and whether they are in power or not. Even the enabling legal provisions do not give any clue of linking the reports to public funding.”
Asked what the commission would do to parties that may not comply, Mrs. Omo-Agege said though no form punishment was spelt out in the Electoral Act, they have no option but to comply.
“Whether INEC gives them grants or not, if the law says they should make their financial records available they should do so,” Mrs. Omo-Agege said.
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