Reps Summon Finance Minister, Reject AuGF’s Office Budget
The House of Representatives Public Accounts Committee (PAC), on Wednesday, rejected the N5.112 billion budgetary allocation for the Office of the Auditor General for the Federation, as contained in the 2023 Appropriation Bill currently before the National Assembly for consideration.
Consequently, the Committee led by Hon. Oluwole Oke (PDP, Osun), resolved to summon the minister of Finance, Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed, the Acting Accountant General of the Federation, Sylva Okolieaboh and the Director General of the Budget Office of the Federation, Mr Ben Akabueze.
The Panel gave the trio a seven-day ultimatum to appear and explain why the budget of such a strategic office should be so meagre even though it is a creation of the constitution by virtue of section 85, while ancillary agencies established by Acts of the parliament such as the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to feed from the reports of AuGF are heavily funded.
Auditor General for the Federation, Andrew Onwudili had while briefing the Committee disclosed that though the office proposed a total budget of N11.151 billion, what the budget office approved and put in the envelope was N5.112 billion.
According to him, the office had proposed a personnel cost of N3.041 billion as against the N2.349 billion contained in the budget, a proposal of N5.59 billion for overhead costs as against the N2.113 billion, and a proposal of N2.52 billion against the N62.70 million contained in the budget estimates.
Apparently miffed by the development, Oke said “It is very important at this point in time to state clearly our observations. We want to observe that, the government of President Buhari was elected based on his promise, and determination to tame corruption, to humble corruption in our country.
“And one of the institutions, as a matter of fact, the fundamental institution which the crafters of our constitution put in place under Section 85 is the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation. By Act of the Parliament, we have created ancillary institutions like ICPC, and EFCC to work with the products, with the findings of the Office of the Auditor General’s office after due consideration by the Parliament.
“It is very unfortunate that we have noticed the concerted effort, and determination to undermine the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation. To eradicate, to repeal illegally the Supreme audit institution of this country. We have seen the determination of the lieutenants of Mr President, particularly the minister of finance, the DG Budget office to undermine Mr President in his determination to wage war against corruption on the land
Otherwise, why would you allocate several billions to ancillary institutions and you are giving N62 million to the office of the Auditor General of the Federation to fund Capital? Do they have to go Cap in Hand to pay workers? They are understaffed, they are undermined? They cannot conduct performance audits. As we speak, this office is yet to lay its reports in respect of the 2022 and 2021 financial years.
“We are saying that we are determined to wage war against corruption. We cannot see how we intend to achieve the objectives, based on which budget is formulated. Speaking to law, facts and issues. Procurement Act…Section (18) taken together is the bedrock for budget formulation. Sub-Section 18 an agency of government is expected to conduct a needs assessment, conduct a market survey, arrive at your needs and ensure that, they are embedded in the annual budget.
“If the Auditor General of the Federation has conducted a needs assessment in terms of personnel, in the areas of working tools and have officers in all the 36 States and the FCT and they came to the conclusion about what they need and submit same to the Budget Office, and the Budget Office violated that same principle, Procurement Act and now reduced the Capital requirements of this agency to N62 million, reduced their Overhead by N3 billion and gave the agencies of government that are doing virtually nothing billions of Naira, there is no other way to tell Mr President that his lieutenants are working against him.
“Or, are they telling Nigerians, that even the objectives laid by Mr President are determined to undermine this Supreme audit institution? Otherwise, Mr President would have assented that Bill presented to him, and this would have given the Auditor General’s office its rightful place in our country.
“We reject this budget. This budget cannot work. The Auditor General of the Federation, the minister of finance, the two of them are hereby summoned to appear before this committee, to come and tell Nigerians.
“The minister for finance, the DG Budget, the Accountant General of the Federation, the three of them should cause an appearance before this committee and tell Nigerians why they are undermining the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation.
“Why the office has not been staffed? Why they are not being given the tools required to work to weed out corruption in the land? Do they have to tell Nigerians? Why the EFCC office and ICPC are being funded more than the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation? We’ll not accept it. It can’t be business as usual.