Senate lashes out at anti-corruption agencies over unaudited accounts

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• Accuses agencies of not auditing accounts in 20 years
• Issues ultimatum to 25 bodies to present fiscal details

The Senate yesterday accused anti-corruption agencies in the country of failing to audit their accounts in the last 20 years. It warned all agencies of government including those under the presidency that henceforth all funds allocated must be accounted for. The Senate Committee on Public Accounts, which issued the reprimand, gave 25 Ministries, Departments and Agencies a seven-day ultimatum to submit their income and expenditure operations from 2017 till date. The defaulting MDAs are to make the submissions on or before November 27, 2019.

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The chairman of the committee, Senator Mathew Urhoghide, said there would be no sacred cows. He said the directive was expedient so that defaulting MDAs would comply and, in turn, enable his committee to carry out special functions in ensuring accountability and transparency in the management of public funds.

“Some agencies have existed for 20 years. They don’t have audited accounts. Even the ones that are fighting corruption, their accounts are not audited. In other areas, there is no way you can collect money in the succeeding year when you have not accounted for what you got the preceding year, only in Nigeria.”

He said: “It is only here that we spend a lot of money checking, after corruption has been perpetrated. Nobody bothers. You spend huge sums of money on EFCC running after people that have stolen the wealth of the people. It is only in this country, after people have inflated and stolen money, that we start talking about corruption…after the road has been built, runways have been built, airplanes have been bought at inflated prices.”

He noted: “All the components that are in the bill of quantity, everything that is stated there, if there are 100 items, we must see the 100 items. If the thickness of the asphalt is supposed to be 5mm, we must see 5mm.“We want to change the narratives and we need you, the media, so that every erring agency that is not playing by the rules must support us. If this committee must do its job, we need the media as partners. We are starting that journey. A lot of the agencies that we have written to, to intimate us on their status have refused. We have been calling them but they have refused.”He said they must account for all government funds or face the music. “This committee is very ready to bring everybody to the public arena,” he said.

The affected MDAs include: Office of the Accountant General of the Federation; Federal Inland Revenue; Niger Delta Development Commission; Federal Capital Territory; Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria; National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure; Nigerian Investment Promotion Council; Federal Ports Authority of Nigeria; Nigeria Football Federation; Federal Road Maintenance Agency; National Space Research and Development Agency; Nigerian Building and Road Research Institute; Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency; Petroleum Equalisation Fund (Management) Board; Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs; Presidency Amnesty Programme; Nigerian Petroleum Development Company; Small and Medium Enterprise Development Agency; Federal Road Safety Corps; Nigerian Airspace Management Agency; Nigeria Insurance Trust Fund; Industrial Training Fund; Nigeria Railway Corporation, National Primary Health Care Development Agency; and Central Bank of Nigeria.

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The Senate, meanwhile, has debated the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, which provides for e-voting and direct transmission of results from polling units to a central database. The chamber may pass the document in four weeks.The chamber, which concluded debate on the general principles of the bill yesterday referred the matter to its committee in charge of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) with a directive to report back within the stipulated period.

The Guardian had exclusively reported on Tuesday that the work on the bill would be sped up.Also, the controversial anti-social media bill received accelerated hearing yesterday despite the nationwide uproar against the proposal.The bill titled, ‘Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations’, was sponsored by Senator Musa Sani from Niger State.

It passed second reading and was referred to the committee on judiciary and legal matters. The panel has a four-week ultimatum to submit the report after public hearings where Nigerians and other stakeholders would make contributions.“This bill is not an attempt to stifle free speech. It is rather an opportunity to address the growing threats, which, left unchecked, can cause serious damage in our polity and disrupt peaceful existence,” Sani said during his lead debate.

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