The fight against corruption will not be complete if Nigeria does not have an effective audit law. The President understands the role of audit in his anti-corruption fight hence the directive he issued at the inception of his administration to the auditor general of the federation, directing that all audit queries be responded to by MDAS in 24 hours.
This directive was borne out of countless unresponded audit queries to MDAs whose financial and procurement activities are marred with fraud and irregularities. Limitless numbers of probes have been conducted on key agencies of government indicting them of malpractices of different sort. Unfortunately the absence of an audit law has given rise to impunity in the use of public resources in the MDAs.
The proposed audit bill 2015 was passed by the last senate in January 2019, still awaiting the Presidents assent. The proposed Audit law, empowers the auditor general to amongst others; examine, investigate or undertake performance audits and report as he considers necessary on the expenditure of public funds and use of public resources by MDAs or other entities and international institutions; The conduct and performance of their functions by accounting officers, heads of MDAs, other public entities and international institutions; The extent to which MDAs or other public entities and international institutions established by an Act of the National Assembly, is carrying out its activities; Any act of omission of MDAs or other public entities and international institutions to determine whether waste has resulted or may have resulted or may result, Any act showing or appearing to show a lack of probity or financial prudence by MDAs, other public entities, international institutions or any of its members, office holders and employees; and Any other activity undertaken by the MDAs or other public entities and international institutions. The Audit law when passed will subject the financial and programmatic reports of MDAs to public scrutiny thereby ensuring transparency and accountability in the use of public resources. Currently the Auditor General of the Federation does not have the powers to investigate or prosecute any erring public officials in the MDAs who have run fowl of the audit guidelines. Even the directive given by the President as stated earlier is not backed by law and can be violated without consequences. The audit law will not only guide the accounting officers and other responsible parties involved in the MDAs on the standard procedures in the application of public fund, it will also encourage performance in programs and budgeting in the MDAs. The absence of proper auditing in MDAs is also responsible for the fusion of unwarranted projects in the budget of most MDAs. Projects are not subjected to either procurement, financial or performance audits. Hence MDAs repeat most projects that have been budgeted and executed previously in their annual budget.
With this scenario, one would expect the President to quickly pass the audit law if he truly wants to fight corruption because eighty percent of Presidents Buhari’s anti-corruption fight is being perpetrated at the MDAs. This has been proven with so many cases instituted by the EFCC against public officials in recent past.
If there are grey issues in the current audit bill, it is expected that the President spot them and facilitate the process for quick reconciliation of this grey issues with the National Assembly as well as sign the bill into law. This will be recorded as one of the landmark effort in the current administration’s sustainable fight against corruption.
Victor Emejuiwe Abuja