Gbajabiamila warns CBN, others against contempt of legislative powers

• as CBN, NDLEA Auditor General, others shun Reps' investigative hearing 

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila on Monday warned accounting officers of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Auditor General of the Federation and Accountant General of the Federation and other Government Agencies to desist from breaching extant financial regulations and statutes forthwith.

Rep. Gbajabiamila issued the notice while declaring open the 2-weeks investigative hearing into the ‘deliberate and reckless refusal by non-treasury and partially funded agencies to render their audited accounts covering the period 2014-2018 to the Auditor General for the Federation organised by the House Committee on Public Accounts.

Other agencies who failed to attend the investigative public hearing are Director General of Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dakuku Peterside who was directed to appear within 48 hours to present the audited accounts of the agency between 2014 to 2018.

The Speaker represented by Deputy Majority Leader, Rep. Peter Akpatason observed that such deviant action could jeopardise the fate of millions of taxpayers.

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According to him, “Public Accounts Committee was deliberately included in the Constitution because of the strategic and very important role that the committee plays in every parliament in the world all over.

“And any attempt to ignore such committee particularly when agencies of government are invited for an important occasion like this is a violation of our laws and carries very weighty sanctions.

“The House is not pleased with the agencies of government that are not present here today, such as the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Accountant General’s office as well as the office of the Auditor General of Nigeria, and many others, just to place it on record.

“The manager of public accounts put in trust the ambition of millions of people whose fate are tied to the proper administration of that trust. Therefore the management of public finances and accounts rightly imposes on the public servants the duty of care that is far above that which is demanded from the ordinary citizens who operate in private businesses.

“It is not enough to be faithful in that administration, our Constitution further demands that the Auditor General of the Federation and then the National Assembly review these accounts and certify that indeed the funds accruing to the Federation all its offices and courts have been administered in accordance with the law and in expectation of the citizens on whose behalf we all serve.

“When MDAs of the government fail to fully adhere to the letters adhered the spirit of the law we create the circumstances for our citizens to believe that the actions we take and the priorities that we pursue are not intended to service of the greater good but for the private interests of such persons

“This belief undermines the individual’s commitment to the ideals of our nationhood and survives our collective determination to build for ourselves and for our children a nation we can be proud of.”

He, however, noted that the House has resolved to take advantage of the constitutional powers conferred on it to ensure that the “Executive live up to their duty of proper finances and finance sketches according to the laws of the land.”

He, therefore, urged the Committee on Public Accounts to discharge the responsibility on behalf of the House, fairly and with honour.

While addressing the stakeholders, Chairman, House Committee on Public Accounts, Hon. Wole Oke frowned at the astronomical increase in the number of defaulting agencies that fail to submit their audited accounts to the Office of Auditor General of the Federation as provided by the extant financial regulations and statutes.

According to him, “FR114 (f) provides for compilation and defending of the ‘‘budget proposals and ensuring effective budgeting control by matching/comparing budgeted figures with actual expenditure or revenue as the case may be and advise the Accounting Officer appropriately

“Considering the seriousness of the need to hold MDAs accountable for their financial activities and spending, the framers of our Constitution inserted Section 85(2) of the Constitution, which requires an audit of the accounts of the Federation, all offices and courts and the audit must be reported to the Auditor General. Section 85(4) of the Constitution, also mandates the Auditor General of the Federation to conduct checks of all government statutory Corporations, Commissions, Authorities, Agencies, including all persons and other statutory bodies.

“Quite curiously, based on statistics available, the number of MDAs and statutory bodies that have allegedly refused to comply with these constitutional mandate, are growing.”

According to Hon. Oke, 76 MDAs failed to submit the 2011 audited accounts, 85 MDAs defaulted in 2012; 109 MDAs defaulted in 2013; 148 MDAs defaulted in 2014; 215 MDAs defaulted in 2015 while 323 MDAs defaulted in 2016

“Do we have lawful reasons? Those are the things we intend to incur here.

I have given the statistics of agencies over the years that have refused to turn in their audited accounts. Do we have to wait on Mr President to wade in when clearly you have the constitutional mandate? Mr President can only give you a job but he cannot do the job for you. If we like to be MDs or CEO, so why don’t we like to render accounts?

“If ICPC or EFCC agencies that we created, storm your office to ask for your audited accounts, will you be giving them the excuses that you are giving to us? What do you want our children to say about us, the generation coming behind us?

“Do you want them to round up all of us one day and fire us for failing this nation? You can discharge your duties when discharging money when it comes to accountability, you shy away and the crafters of our constitution put the Parliament under section 4 before other arms of government,” he noted.

While expressing disgust over the level of disregard for the invitations sent to the heads of various MDAs on the public hearing, Hon. Oke threatened that the Committee would name and shame those who fail to appear before it by publishing their names in the national dailies

“If the MD of Bank of Industry can be here, Director of DPR can be here, NEXIM is here, why won’t others?

We would name and shame, aside deploy the provisions of the Constitution warrant of arrest. If you do not render accounts, how would the Account-General of the Federation finalise the account of the Federation, or the Auditor-General of the Federation be able to present a fair position on the state of our finances? These are the issues.

“Contrary to some opinions, this Parliament is not a rubber stamp, we will discharge and do our jobs. Some CEOs have formed the habit of not coming to the Parliament but under the election of Gbajabiamila, it would not be business as usual

“Any agency that is invited and refused to show up, you will find your name on the pages of papers tomorrow. We will name and shame such MDAs. It shows that you are hiding something. We are only asking you, ‘bring your audited accounts.’ If you have submitted to the auditor-general, show us proof

“We are not usurping the functions of the auditor-general, we are not conducting audits but we are only saying based on the records that we have, so many agencies have refused to comply with the provision of the Constitution and relevant statutes. Show us proof

“If you don’t have audited account, why? Is it that you have issues like the Customs who said they have a problem with the BPP because they were not given the approval to hire external auditors?

“Let us know. And it is through this kind of engagements that we can formulate policies; it is through these engagements that we can make new laws or amend the existing ones which are difficult to obey. That is why we are here,” the Chairman urged.

Hon. Oke who accused the heads of MDAs who refused to appear before the Committee of sabotaging governance of the country, also warned the heads of the MDAs to stop hiding under the guise of absence of governing Boards that would approve their audited Accounts as reasons for not coming before the parliament with the documents as the long arm law would catch up with such people.

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