.Charges officials to see audit exercise as encouragement, not threat
.Absence of audit act hindering our job, says Auditor-General
President Muhammadu Buhari says effective auditing across all levels of government will enhance transparency and complement his administration’s effort in the fight against graft.
The President also encouraged public servants to see audit as a means of improving their performance and not as a threat.
Declaring open the second edition of the conference of Auditors-General in Nigeria which had the theme “Building Government Audit Institutions Nigeria needs for the 21st Century”, on Tuesday in Abuja, President Buhari challenged auditors to adhere to the professional code of conduct guiding their operations, while ensuring timely and quality review of financial performance of public officers.
He also charged Auditors-General in Nigeria to maximise the use of their constitutional powers in the fight against corruption.
The President expressed concern that ineffective audits had contributed largely to governance problems over the years, urging auditors to embrace good governance, accountability and transparency, which are hallmarks of this administration.
”As accountability institutions in the Federal, states and local governments, and as the institutions empowered under the Constitution to review the financial performance of public officers even where there has been no petition or allegation, you are uniquely placed to tackle corrupt practices.
”Through your audit findings and recommendations, corrupt practices would be discovered early and loopholes blocked before they are exploited.
”Furthermore, you have the full range of audit tools at your disposal including financial compliance, performance and Information Technology audits.
”There is literally no aspect of government performance or expenditure you cannot examine. What may be missing is the will to properly deploy the powers that you have.
”In which case, I will remind you that under-performance by auditors, or ineffective audits, contribute largely to governance problems. Auditors therefore need to decide not to be part of the problem but the arrow to the solution,” he said.
Commenting on the 2016 and 2017 Annual Reports of the Auditor-General of the Federation, the President noted that the audit opinion was in line with the reality of corruption, mismanagement and misappropriation facing the nation.
The President commended the Auditor-General of the Federation for his efforts, saying: ”I want to encourage you to continue to do your best. It is important that all Federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) are kept on their toes through timely and high-quality audits.”
President Buhari told the three-day conference that his administration was fully aware of the value that audit and scrutiny brings to the performance of governance functions.
He, therefore, assured the professionals that regular and constant monitoring of performance would be prioritised as the Federal Government rolls out its Development Plan.
”We know that MDAs charged with delivery of activities that impact the lives of Nigerians can all monitor and report their own performance, but the most reliable measure is an accurate and independent assessment by external auditors.
”This is one key reason all tiers of government in Nigeria need a strong external audit function,” he said.
The President also used the occasion to highlight some key achievements in the fight against corruption through government anti-corruption agencies, especially the EFCC, the ICPC, the Code of Conduct Bureau and others.
He said: ”These successes include significant arrests, recoveries of cash and properties purchased with stolen funds and the blockage of loopholes through which people siphon public funds.
”You may also have noted the progress made by the Judiciary in the trials of several cases and the sanctions and sentences being handed out to offenders.
”You will also be aware of this administration’s Financial Transparency Policy and the launch of the Open Treasury Portal at the end of 2019. This again is to improve on accountability, access to information for all citizens and the timeliness of financial information.
”You can see that a lot has been done, but there is so much more to do, as the cancer of corruption has deeply affected our country and our governance practices, and the fight cannot be won until all tiers of government and indeed the generality of Nigerians are determined to join the fight against corruption.’’
Acknowledging that auditors are facing several challenges, the President noted that very few states had the operational and financial independence necessary to deliver high level performance.
He assured the auditors that efforts are being made to strengthen the independence of their offices, encouraging them to strive to achieve maximum impact with the powers they currently have.
”My expectation for the future is to see audits conducted at all tiers of Government with more impactful findings. I expect audit institutions to be able to report the amount of financial impacts and savings they have achieved for their government, along with non-financial impacts,” he said.
Earlier in his remarks, the Auditor General of the Federation (AuGF), Anthon Mkpe Ayine, identified the absence of an audit act as one of the major challenges Nigerian auditors are faced with.
He said that despite some reforms which his office has carried out, the absence of the act has limited their duties.
“The office of the Auditor General has embarked on a process of reforms, however, one of the major impediments is the absence of an audit act which is a basic requirement for the Supreme Audit Institution (SAI).
“Also, the Audit Ordinance of 1958 which the country was using is no longer in the statutes books of Nigeria
“Consequently, we solicit the enactment of the enactment of audit laws for Nigeria to further strengthen our audit institutions to perform better,” he said.
Speaking further, he said that following the president’s five year development strategy in 2017, the Auditor General’s office has developed an audit methodology in line with international standards to enhance productivity.
He further stated that there are plans on the way to provide support for states and make the best use of innovation for audit both at the local and state level.
Ayine pledged the commitment of Nigeria’s auditors to align with the administration’s policies aimed at fighting corruption.
“We are committed to the Federal Government’s numerous plans aimed at ensuring transparency and accountability in managing the country’s resources.
“The directive to MDAs to ensure audit queries are answered within specified limits, vigorous pursuit of implementation of TSA, and IPPIS have ensured that leakages are blocked.
“Also, the re-launch of the Open Treasury Portal and the re-invigoration of anti-corruption fight in all agencies are yielding positive results and all Auditor-Generals across the country are ready to work hard and achieve the goals of these policies,” he added.