Uche Usim, Abuja
The leadership of the National Assembly has been called upon to expressly transmit the passed Audit Bill to President Muhammadu Buhari for his assent, as this will help to complement the anti-corruption fight of the Federal Government.
The call was made on Thursday in Abuja by advocacy groups under the auspices of “Friends of Democracy”, during a Citizens and Media Consultative/Dialogue forum on the Audit functions in Nigeria.
Spokesman for the group, Jerry Ugokwe, while briefing newsmen at the end of the dialogue session, commended President Muhammadu Buhari for the fight against corruption and efforts taken so far to strengthen accountability mechanisms in the country, while also urging him to grant speedy assent to the Audit Bill as soon as it is presented to him.
He noted sadly, that the Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation (OAuGF) was performing below its mandate and expectations owing to the absence of the audit law; explaining that an Audit Act will ensure the independence of the OAuGF, empower it to recruit, train, promote and discipline its staff, as well as guarantee better remuneration for its employees.
The Audit Bill when passed into law will also instigate improved accountability in government processes, enable performance and efficiency in public spending, as well as insulate the Office and its officials from political manipulations and interference.
“The session commends the Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation for championing key reforms currently being promoted by the office… it also reiterates the importance of the current Audit Bill as it addresses the major setbacks of the existing legal frameworks,” Ugokwe said.
The group also resolved to engage more with the 8th National Assembly to consider and deliberate on the Auditor-General’s reports and make recommendations, stressing that “the OAuGF cannot function effectively if its reports submitted to the National Assembly is not acted upon”.
Ugokwe also called on Civil Society Groups and the Media, to be more involved in the audit process which is the accountability aspect of the budget cycle and engage relevant stakeholders, especially the National Assembly, to give more attention to the Auditor-General’s audit findings and recommendations.
“This session realizes that Civil Society groups and the Media have a crucial role to play in the budget and Audit process yet they are often incapacitated to engage stakeholders due to inadequate information available to them,” it stated in a communique.
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Earlier during the interactive session, a retired director from the OAuGF, Ismail Adeleye, said in the last two years, the office has made its submitted audit reports to the National Assembly accessible to the public by uploading them on its website, as part of accountability measures.
Adeyele also harped on the need to revive the Public Accounts Committee implementation tribunal which was set up during the military era to consider the AuGF’s annual reports and sanction defaulters.
The objectives of the meeting were to reflect on/review the audit process and ongoing reforms in the country, strengthen Civil Society Groups/Media understanding and participation in the Budget/Audit process, improve transparency and accountability and promote good governance in the country.