The Senate on Tuesday pledged to publish the names of Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government that failed to defend queries raised against them by the Auditor General for the Federation.
The President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, stated this following the presentation of the report of the Senate Committee on Public Accounts on the 2015 report of the AuGF.
Lawan said, “This is one of our major responsibilities as a Parliament to hold the executive to account, and whoever is given the responsibility and the trust of running any agency with public funds must be accountable to the Parliament on behalf of the people.
“You have indicated a certain number of MDAs who failed to come to the Committee after invitation.
“I want you to go through your documents, the invitation letters, or the reminders. This Senate will publish the names of these agencies for the public to know.
“This Senate will insist that any public or civil servant that is given public fund for public good and has questions to answer or has refused to appear to answer, should have no business in government because all of us are supposed to be accountable to the people.
“Therefore, if someone thinks that he is not going to be accountable then that person has no business remaining in office.
“I want to also say that those who turned up to defend or explain interrogations by the Auditor General did the right thing and we must commend them for coming, whether they were able to convince the Committee that the Auditor General was not right or not, they appeared responsible and accountable.”
Chairman of SPAC, Senator Matthew Urhoghide, said seven MDAs had refused to appear before the panel to defend the AuGF’s queries against their agencies.
Urhoghide listed the agencies that failed to respond to the Committee’s invitation to defend queries against them to include the Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, Federal Ministry of Health, the Nigeria Police Force, and the Federal Fire Service.
Others are the Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, Zaria, Ministry of Police Affairs, and Federal Ministry of Information and Culture (Information Sector).
He noted that MDAs who claimed their documents were with the anti-graft agencies were the Federal Polytechnic, Ekowe, Bayelsa State, and Pensions Transitional Arrangement Directorate.
Urhoghide said, “In the annual report of the Auditor-General for the Federation for the year ended, 31st December 2015, the Auditor-General queried a total of 114 Ministries, Departments and Agencies.
“In considering the Report, the Committee invited all the MDAs queried, out of which 84 made submissions and appeared before the Committee to defend the queries raised against them.
“Seven MDAs neither made submissions nor appeared before the Committee. Two MDAs reported to the Committee that either EFCC or ICPC or both were in possession of the original copies of their documents, therefore, could not respond or appear before the Committee.
“Among the MDAs that appeared before the Committee or had their submissions reviewed, 46 MDAs had all their queries vacated.
“Fifty-nine MDAs had their queries sustained with recommendations for consideration and approval of the Senate.
“Please, note that some unresolved matters regarding the 2015 Report are still ongoing and a supplementary report will be presented to the Senate as soon as action on them is concluded upon.”
Urhoghide warned that a time will come when MDAs that failed to account for their past annual allocations would be blacklisted and denied subsequent appropriations.
He added that in carrying out the exercise, the Committee observed across the board the incessant violation of extant rules by MDAs.
According to him, “Such common procedural violations prevalent amongst queried MDAs included non-retirement of personal advances within the given financial year, Grant of cash advances above the approved limit of N200,000.00, uncooperative attitude of MDAs towards auditors such that issues which ordinarily would have been resolved during exit conferences are allowed to linger culminating into audit query, extra-budgetary expenditure and virement without National Assembly’s approval.
“The Committee also observed the need to review some of our finance and audit laws and practices to conform to current realities, as well as to further empower the office of the Auditor-General as the supreme Audit Instructor in Nigeria.
“For example, the need for the Audit Service Commission Act has remained desirable now as before.
“Similarly, the Accountant-General of the Federation and other relevant executive bodies should be directed to urgently review some provisions of the Financial Regulations and Treasury Circulars.
“For instance, the pegging of Cash Advance at a maximum of N200,000.00 is not in sync with current market realities.
“From the revenue angle, the Committee observed a fifty-five per cent average performance by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) in the pursuit and recovery of tax arrears owed the government.
“This level of performance exhibited by the tax authority, as well as negative and evasive attitude of assessed companies towards taxation, left over N27bn tax arrears comprising WHT, VAT, CIT and EDT uncollected by the national tax authority, between 2012 and 2015 financial years.”