Recent newspaper reports that the cumulative unremitted revenue from domestic crude oil sales by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) stood at about N3.878 trillion as at December 31, 2015, is shocking, depressing and disheartening.
It calls to question the assumed high level of probity, integrity and accountability of top public sector officials and shows how many government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) treat audit queries with levity.
The reports, quoting a report by the technical sub-committee of the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) was part of the submissions in the 2015 Annual Audit Report of the Federal Government’s Account by the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation, (AuGF), also revealed that the NNPC withheld about N644.377 billion in 2015 alone.
The report also said that out of about N1.55 trillion revenue from crude oil sales due for remittance to the Federation Account during the year, the NNPC deducted about N892.124bn and withheld the balance.
It was not indicated what the corporation used the unremitted funds for. But it was discovered that throughout 2015, remittances totalling N13.907bn were recorded in February and April.
The AuGF requested the Group Managing Director of the NNPC to explain why the N3.878 trillion was not remitted to the Federation Account.
The AuGF also ordered the corporation to henceforth remit all revenues due to the Federation’s Account accordingly and evidence of such remittances tendered to his office. It is not clear whether the NNPC management heeded the AuGF’s order.
It is indeed reprehensible and shameful that an organisation as large as the NNPC could conveniently refuse to obey the provisions of the country’s constitution with impunity.
Henceforth, officials of NNPC who actively take part in such unconstitutional actions should not only be sanctioned but should also be prosecuted to serve as deterrents to other public sector officials who are in the habit of flouting the provisions of the constitution with impunity.
The fact that Section 162(1) of the 1999 Constitution, makes it mandatory for all revenue proceeds to be paid to the Federation Account also makes it illegal for the NNPC or any federal government agency to make any deduction whatsoever from the its revenue before paying the rest to the federation account.
If anything, this was why the audit report frowned at NNPC’s deduction from its revenues, describing it as contrary to the provisions of Section 162(1) of the 1999 Constitution.
The import of the AuGF’s report is that public sector officials often pay little or no attention to auditor’s reports.
Otherwise, why is it that for years the NNPC refused to comply with the provisions of the constitution on remittance of its revenues to the federation account and nobody was sanctioned for such gross disregard for the provisions of the constitution.
It shows the laxity in government and why in many cases public servants corruptly steal from government coffers unnoticed.
Going forward, we recommend that the highest levels of transparency and accountability must be maintained by both the AuGF’s office and the audited institutions.
We also believe that an exit meeting should always be held between the auditor and the audited institutions to discuss the outstanding issues in the audit report.
In addition, draft report from the AuGF’s office should always be given to the audited institutions for comments.
That way, audit reports in the public sector would be cleaner and there will be less frictions between the AuGF’s office and the public institutions being audited.