By Idris Oladapo Oladokun

 

Introduction

Accountability, seen as “the obligation to demonstrate that work has been conducted in accordance with agreed rules and standards and the officer reports fairly and accurately on performance results” (Adegbite, 2009), is intricately linked with good governance. In Nigeria, there appears to be a low level of accountability with the prevalence of corruption. Transparency International’s records posited that corruption accounts for about 20 percent of Nigeria’s GDP. It is painful to also learn that the country was identified among the top nations in the over $1 trillion annually paid globally in bribes (Ibietan, 2013). Furthermore, the poverty rate in Nigeria as a consequence of lack of accountability is appalling. It has been documented that Nigeria has already overtaken India as the country with the largest number of extremely poor people in early 2018 (Kharas, Hamel and Hofer, 2018). With the inauguration of the 9th Senate on June 11, 2019, hopes are high that there will be a renewed vigour and that the Nigerian Senate will live up to expectation and improve upon its records particularly in the onerous task of oversight.

Senate Committee on Public Accounts

In Nigeria, the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended) recognizes the auditing of all public accounts. Under section 85, sub section 2 of the Constitution, it was stated that “the public accounts of the Federation and of all offices and courts of the Federation shall be audited and reported on to the Auditor-General who shall submit his reports to the National Assembly; and for that purpose, the Auditor-General or any person authorised by him in that behalf shall have access to all the books, records, returns and other documents relating to those accounts”. Furthermore, sub section 5 of the same section 85 stipulates that the “the Auditor-General shall, within ninety days of receipt of the Accountant-General’s financial statement, submit his reports under this section to each House of the National Assembly and each House shall cause the reports to be considered by a committee of the House of the National Assembly responsible for public accounts”.

8th Senate Committee on Public Accounts

The Public Account Committee of the eighth Senate was inaugurated on 4 November 2015 by Senate President, Bukola Saraki with Senator Andy Ubah as chairman and Senator Gbolahan Dada as the Vice (Senate Votes and Proceedings, 2015). However, on 26 September 2017, the committee leadership was changed to Senator Matthew Urhoghide (Senate Votes and Proceedings, 2017) following the defection of the initial chairman to another party. In analyzing the performance of the Committee in the 8th Senate, it should be noted that none of the two chairmen of the committee had educational background or experience in finance, auditing or accounting which should be a sine qua non in managing a committee of this magnitude. A committee that is saddled with analyzing audit reports of the Ministries, Agencies and Parastatals should have a technically proficient leadership. As a matter of fact, out of the 28-member committee, only 11 members had educational background or experience in finance, auditing or accounting. Most importantly, audit reports since 1999 were not allegedly considered, according to the Auditor General of the Federation (AGF), Mr. Anthony Anyine (Premium Times, 8 April, 2019). Going further, the AGF stated that “for audit reports to be seen to have been fully considered after submission, a resolution of the National Assembly on the audit report must be transmitted to the executive arm for necessary action”. Perhaps this is what had buoyed public officials in wanton mismanagement of public funds thus depriving Nigerians of basic amenities and value for money. This also justified why there are lots of Nigerians in poverty today. Again, Nigeria’s corruption level is high as a consequence of lack of accountability and good governance.

Conclusion

The activities of the Senate Committee on Public Accounts in the 8th Senate may not have had corresponding impact on good governance, accountability and transparency, especially as it related to the corruption and increased poverty level. Lack of adequate legal framework to give resolutions of the Senate on reports of oversight activities enough force of law to make its implementation a matter of legal obligation for the executive, gives the executive the right of discretion on either to or not to abide to the legislature’s resolution. This gave room to the somewhat uncooperative attitudes of the Ministries, Agencies and Parastatals.

Recommendations for the 9th Senate Committee on Public Accounts

The 9th Senate already has as members, credible individuals with proven track records in finance, auditing etc. Opposition Senators like Senators Yaros Binos Dauda, Enyinnaya Abaribe Harcourt, Uche Ekwunife, Stella Oduah, Akpan Bassey Albert amongst others, will be suitable for the Senate Committee on Public Accounts,

The committee should also be adequately funded to carry out its task while there should also be provision of forensic laboratories and equipment for the office of the Auditor General.

Regulatory frameworks should be made more effective with constitutional provisions on submission of financial statements, audit reports being more strictly adhered to. Punitive measures should be taken against recalcitrant MDAs who always fail to respond to audit queries or not submit reports on time.

Auditing experts from organisations line ICAN, ANAN etc should be engaged as staff of the committee so as to enhance the committee’s work in analyzing audit reports.

The SPAC should immediately clear the most recent backlogs of the audit reports while President Muhammed Buhari should also assent to the recently passed Audit Bill.

REFERENCES

Adegbite, E. (2009). “Accounting, Accountability and National Development in Compass (December 16) pp. 33-34

Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Lagos: Federal Government Press.

Ibietan, J. (2013). Corruption and Public Accountability in the Nigerian Public Sector: Interrogating the Omission in European Journal of Business and Management (5) 15. Retrieved from www.iiste.org

Kharas, H.; Hamel, k.; and Hofer, M. (2018). “The Start of a new poverty narrative”, Washington: Brookings Institution Press.

Votes and Proceedings of the Senate (2015) 8th National Assembly, First Session, No. 29

Votes and Proceedings of the Senate (2017) 8th National Assembly, Third Session, No. 17

Idris Oladapo Oladokun (08055722260) is a Senior Legislative Aide in the National Assembly with a 17-year cognate experience. He possesses degrees in Masters in International Law and Diplomacy and another Masters in Legislative Study.

 

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