Audit stakeholders in Nigeria have charged the newly appointed Auditor-General of the Federation (AuGF), Shaakaa Chira, to be creative in the discharge of his duties, given the importance of the office and the challenges of accountability in the nation’s public institutions.
The stakeholders, who spoke in separate interviews, observed that inadequate funding is one of the major challenges the new Auditor-General will have to contend with.
President Bola Ahmed Tinubu approved the appointment of Chira as the substantive AuGF, last month, following the recommendations of the Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC). He was last Thursday confirmed by the Senate.
Chira takes over from Adolphus Aghughu, who retired from that position in September last year.
Reacting to the Senate confirmation, the Executive Director, Paradigm Leadership Support Initiative (PLSI), a civil society group, Olusegun Elemo, said the appointment of a substantive AuGF has been long awaited.
He said, “this appointment is what we have been waiting for, it has taken too long because of infighting and at the end of the day, it is development that suffers.”
Elemo said what the audit does is to enhance development by limiting public sector corruption and making sure that public officials are held accountable.
He said now that the new Auditor-General has been appointed one of the first things “we expect the office will do is to look into the timeliness of audit reports.
“As you are aware, the 2020, 2021 and 2022 audit reports have not yet been submitted to the National Assembly. “
That in itself is an absurdity in that we are now talking about 36 months after the end of the financial year 2020 and we still haven’t seen the report of the Auditor-General.
“The timeliness of the audit report is very important and we feel that that will be enhanced if the audit bill that is being worked on by the National Assembly is passed, the House of Representatives has already passed it, we hope the Senate will also pass it and send it to the President for signing.
“Once that is done, it provides the legal framework that each of the actors in the audit cycle including the accountant general, the auditor general and the public accounts committees of the National Assembly, will key into and everybody will be constrained by the law to know who should do what, when it should be done and how it should be done.”
Elemo also observed that the audit approaches are not sufficient to deal with accountability challenges in Nigeria as well as the development gaps that the nation has.
According to him, “we are hoping that this current Auditor-General, being a performance auditor himself, will bring his experiences to bear upon the audit approaches and methodologies they employ. We are expecting that much more audit performances will be conducted now, much more than the regular financial and compliance audit. We don’t even do as much compliance audit, what we do more is financial audit, and financial audit is not sufficient to look deep into the accountability challenges. So we are hoping that he will deploy that audit approach more effectively.”
On the issue of resources, Elemo said there has been the issue of whether the office has enough resources in terms of manpower and funds to be able to deploy such audit approaches, he however noted that it is something that has to be done.
“It is shameful that we are spending N21 trillion to N25 trillion yearly and we are barely spending N5 billion to audit it, and even that N5 billion, 90 per cent of it is on personnel and recurrent expenditure and just about 10 per cent is actually going into real audit work in terms of the field work that needs to be done. That is why many MDAs are escaping. Those are the issues we are hoping he will focus on,” he stated.
He noted that it is good that the Speaker of the House of Representatives is advocating that the resources for that office should be increased from the current N5 billion or N7 billion, which is certainly insufficient. “In fact it is an insult that you are spending N25 trillion and you are auditing it with N7 billion. These are issues that need to be dealt with,” he said
Also speaking, Ferdinand Onyema, a former staff of the Office of the Auditor-General, advised that the new Auditor-General should focus on staff welfare in order to boost the morale of the workers in view of the nature of their work.
He said, “having left there just a year plus, I know the problems of the office, the problem is majorly that of funding and shortage of manpower. The work is enormous and because of the poor funding some of the functions are now being taken over by institutions like EFCC, ICPC and others, whereas they are supposed to use the output of the OAUGF as their input.”
Onyema said for a couple of years there has not been recruitment in the office and the staff strength is reducing. “In the last two years, there was mass retirement of the professionals because of years of service or age, now there is a gap. If new ones had been employed, they would have been trained by the old hands,” he said.