The Office of Auditor General of the Federation recently gave a damning report on the financial records of some government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), revealing huge financial infractions and mismanagement of funds. According to the report, there were deficiencies in the processes for consolidating the balances of MDAs into one economic entity. It also disclosed that 160 government agencies defaulted in the submission of their audited accounts for 2016, 265 of them for 2017. The report also observed that 11 MDAs had never submitted any financial statements since inception. It carpeted some agencies such as the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), for breaching the extant laws, guidelines and regulations.
It also did not spare the Federal Ministry of Justice and Office of the Accountant General of the Federation. It noted that the NCS allegedly failed to make its accounts available for auditing, amid other allegations. The report recommended that the management of NPA should be probed over alleged irregularities in the N7.5billionn contract for shore erosion control work at Akipelai, Ayakoro and Otuoke towns in Bayelsa State.
Besides, the report lamented financial infractions in the Ministry of Justice, which it accused of disbursing N10.4billion without following due process. Officials of the Ministry, it revealed, spent N32.5 million on foreign travels without approval. It also noted that a detail of the N57.65bilion Federal Government grants and contributions to the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation was not disclosed. The amount represented transfers to domestic and foreign governments, public and private-owned companies, academic institutions and others for 2017. It said the non-disclosure casts doubt in the authenticity and actual usage of such grants and contributions.
In its recommendations, the Auditor General called on the National Assembly to impose “stringent sanctions, including withholding financial releases” and penalty on Chief Executive Officers of the defaulting agencies that did not render timely accounts as provided in the Constitution, financial regulations and other relevant laws.
It is important that the government acts on the recommendations of the Auditor General’s report without delay. Failure to take appropriate action will defeat the aim of checking corruption in the MDAs. It is the duty of the Auditor-General’s office to perform a detailed and objective examination of public accounts of the MDAs and scrutinize their expenditures. It is therefore necessary that all revenue generating agencies should comply with the provisions of Section 162 (1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
In 2017, the Fiscal Responsibility Commission (FRC) disclosed the rot in the MDAs. It said in its 2017 report that the MDAs defrauded the country of over N1trillion in the last seven years. Based on the FRC report, the Ministry of Finance promised to look closely at their operations. The assurance came on the heels of another startling discovery of tax revenue shortfall by MDAs contractors between 2012 and 2017.
In 2016, the Federal Government moved to prosecute 33 of its agencies over non-remittance of N450billion generated between 2010 and 2015. A recovery committee led by the Accountant General of the Federation was set up. Part of the money was said to have been recovered, while a directive was given to all MDAs to close their accounts with commercial banks, and henceforth, remit all revenues to the Treasury Single Account (TSA) domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Going forward, the Auditor General’s report should be seen as a wake-up call to address public sector corruption, which is likely to undermine government’s effort to fight graft. Also, the non-implementation of the recommendations of the Auditor-General report will vitiate the anti-graft war of the present administration. It should worry the government that many high revenue generating agencies are not remitting them to the Federation Account, contrary to existing laws. We, therefore, enjoin all MDAs to present their audited accounts before the end of every financial year. Doing so will help government’s budget planning and implementation.