The Senate’s Public Accounts Committee has called for more funding for the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation.
The chairman of the committee, Matthew Uroghide, made the call on Wednesday when a delegation led by the Auditor-General of the Federation, Anthony Ayine, appeared before the committee for budget defence.
Committees of both Senate and House of Representatives commenced budget defence this week having concluded deliberations on the 2020 Appropriation Bill presented by President Muhammadu Buhari last Tuesday.
Addressing the delegation, Mr Uroghide said allocating more funds to the auditor general’s office is one way to show the government is serious about fighting corruption. He stressed the need for accounts of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to be subjected to checks.
“If we had the powers, by virtue of what we believe the objectives is supposed to be, you should have a whole lot of funds allocated to you,” he said. “I want to use this opportunity to say it again because the last year’s budget defence in the previous assembly, I made it very clear that if the federal government of Nigeria, with all the arms of government are serious about fighting corruption, the first line is the auditor general’s office of the federation.”
He also said: “No doubt that if we are able to put our audit system in place properly and we are able to check government, the account of the federation properly, of course whatever is allocated to all the MDAs, If we are able to put them in proper perspective or in checks, the issue of corruption will reduced tremendously in our country.
“But the audit system we are running right now, is such that, our MDAs are not subjected to any precaution in terms of fighting corruption rather our resources are planted into agencies that are fighting corruption in which case, we allow corruption to happen first before using the agencies of government, EFCC, ICPC, Police, and the rest to start looking for people that of course has shortchanged the Nigerian people in terms of our public funds.”
The Edo lawmaker also said having the right personnel and resources that OAuGF needs to carry out its functions, “are part of the things that the committee has considered”.
He recalled the Federal Audit Bill passed by the eighth Senate and wondered why the President did not sign it into law. He however, assured that the 9th Senate will ensure it is signed into law.
“Once it is signed into law, it will be able to strengthen the office of the Auditor-General of the Federation. Then part B which has to do with the establishment of the Federal Audit Commission, where you are going to have the right personnel trained that will carry out auditing of the account of the federation. I think if we are able to do that, we would have begun the journey in the right direction of fighting corruption in Nigeria.
“After this defence, I still intend to make presentation…I have looked at it, if we were to do training, and do all the things you are supposed to do, the funds provided will not be enough. That being the case, we also expect that the Federal Audit Bill that is waiting for the kind consideration of Mr. President for possible assent as quickly as possible, will equally put things in proper perspective,” he said.
The lawmaker added that the committee intends to clear the backlog of audited reports to enable the budget cycle return to January to December.
Before journalists were excused from the meeting, Mr Ayine gave a brief performance of the 2019 budget for his office.
He told the panel that N188.4 million was appropriated for his office in the 2019 budget but his office “is yet to receive it.”
He also said for personnel cost, N1.9 billion was appropriated and as at September, N1.4 billion has been used to pay for emolument.
For overhead cost, he said the office has received N962.1 million.
Lawmakers of the National Assembly are expected to continue budget defence for the next two weeks as October 29 has been set as deadline for conclusion.