Senate to MDAs: Be prepared to account for public funds

President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, has said the Ninth Senate under his leadership would no longer tolerate recalcitrant heads of Ministries, Department and Agencies that have consistently ignore the invitations of its Committee on Public Accounts.

Senator Lawan made the vow, on Wednesday, shortly after the upper chamber considered the report of the Committee on Public Accounts on the annual report of the Auditor-General for the Federation on the accounts of the Federation for the year ended December 31, 2015.

Chairman of the Committee, Senator Mathew Urhoghide, has consistently raised concern over the failure of the top revenue-generating agencies to appear before the Public Accounts Committee to defend the interrogations of the Auditor-General for the Federation in 2015 report.

Senator Urhoghide further noted that the findings of his Committee revealed “consistent contravention of relevant Constitutional provisions and other Extant Laws by the office of the Accountant-General of the Federation.”

He argued that the late submission of the annual financial statement was a violation of Section 49(1) and (2) of the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA) 2007 and Section 85 (5) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The Senator representing Edo South specifically called the attention of the Senate to withdrawals of funds by the executive arm from Special Fund Accounts for purposes other than the objectives the funds were created, and without recourse to the National Assembly for authorisation, contrary to Section 80(4) of the 1999 Constitution as amended.

Urhoghide further expressed concern over poor synergy between the office of the Auditor-General and the Office of the Accountant-General.

He maintained that the poor interface between the two strategic offices saddled with supervision and management of public funds was a huge hindrance to the effective and transparent audit process of the nation’s Federation Account.

President of the Senate in his contribution warned that henceforth, any public official not ready to subordinate himself to scrutiny by relevant government agencies and Senate Committees would be shown the way out of office.

He said: “This is one of our major responsibilities as a parliament, to hold the executive to account.“[And] whoever is given the responsibility and the trust of running any agency with public funds must be accountable to the parliament on behalf of the people.

“You have indicated a certain number of MDAs who failed to come to the committee after invitation, I want you to go through your documents – the invitation letters with reminders.

“This Senate will publish the names of these agencies for the public to know.

“This Senate will insist, any public servant or civil servant that is given public fund for the public good and has questions to answer and refuse to appear to answer should have no business being in government.

“Because all of us are supposed to be accountable to the people and, therefore, if someone feels that he is not going to be accountable, then that person has no business remaining in office.

“But I want to also say that, those who turned up to defend or explain the interrogations by the Auditor-General did the right thing and we must commend them for coming, whether they were able to convince the committee that the Auditor-General was not right or not. They appeared responsible and accountable.

“For those that have been able to convince the committee on the propriety of what they did, we commend them because they followed the proper accounting mechanisms established, probably by the office of the Accountant-General.”

Lawan attributed the failure of MDAs to honour the invitation of the Senate Committee on Public Accounts to deliberate manipulation of standard accounting systems put in place by the office of the Accountant-General.

“From my experience as Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee in this Senate, most of the agencies of government do not adhere to the established accounting mechanisms that will ensure accountability and transparency sent to them by the office of the Accountant-General.

“We should go ahead and check the accounting systems established in most of these agencies.

“In my experience, there was an agency of government in 2005 or 2006 that spent N1 billion naira on what they called welfare.

“And that is to tell you that there is no system to stop this kind of thing. So, we should go ahead, especially the major agencies, and look at the systems they follow so that we stop people from doing the wrong things before we start to look for a remedy.”

The Senate President further disclosed that the chamber would consider the eventual recommendations of the Public Accounts Committee after it comes up with a document that neatly outlines and summarises them for consideration.

“The report needs our study, just like most of our colleagues said, let’s read it and then come back to look at the recommendations.

“But, I’ll also suggest that you should have all the recommendations in one place, because it is the recommendations that we will consider, instead of going through all the documents before we pass the recommendations. We should have the recommendations summarised.”

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Senate to MDAs: Be prepared to account for public funds

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Senate to MDAs: Be prepared to account for public funds

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