“Citizens’ Participation in Audit Processes Key to Transparency, Accountability” – PERL
By: Femi Mustapha
Partnership to Engage, Reform and Learn (PERL), a UK-supported governance program, has stated that citizens’ participation in audit processes for delivering public services and government programs will encourage transparency and accountability in the way the government performs its functions.
Mr. Adejor Abel, the State Lead Facilitator of PERL, made this remark during the opening of a two-day Technical Session on Strengthening Citizens’ Participation in the Audit Process with the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Office of the Auditor-General of the State, and Local Governments in collaboration with the Civil Society-Legislature Engagement & Accountability Platform (CLEAP), held in Zaria yesterday.
Abel, who defined participatory audit as a mechanism for citizens’ active participation in public oversight, which directly involves citizens and civil society groups in the audit process, said that engagement among stakeholders would be established through a consultative and collaborative approach.
He welcomed members of the Kaduna State House of Assembly who were participating in the session, stating that PERL supported the engagement to facilitate knowledge sharing and ensure that best practices are replicated.
In his presentation titled “Overview of Kaduna State Audit Law, 2021: Background, Provisions, Gaps, Opportunities, and Recommendations,” Yusuf Goje of the Civil Society-Legislature Engagement & Accountability Platform (CLEAP) said that Section 125 of the 1999 Constitution stated that there shall be an Auditor-General for each State who shall be appointed following the provisions of Section 126 of this Constitution.
He added that the public accounts of a State and all offices and accounts of the State shall be audited by the Auditor-General for the State who shall submit his reports to the House of Assembly of the State concerned. For that purpose, the Auditor-General or any person authorized by him on that behalf shall have access to all the books, records, returns, and other documents relating to those accounts.
He explained that in Kaduna State, the Audit Law, 2021, provides for the Audit of Public Accounts of Kaduna State and other Connected Matters.
Goje added that Section 17 of the same law established a Public Accounts Committee, which shall be a Committee of the Kaduna State House of Assembly.
He opined that the Audit Law, 2021, has the following benefits: increased citizens’ political awareness and consciousness, more enlightenment on the ongoing Open Government Partnership (SAPIII) drafting process, and sustained Blueprint and Social Accountability Mechanisms.
However, Goje recommended that the technical capacity of auditors must be strengthened to effectively conduct performance audits and produce standard reports.
“Review the law to include civil society and citizens in conducting performance audits. There should be the establishment of a State Audit Alarm Committee, and the timeline for the review of audit reports by Public Accounts Committees should not exceed 120 days.
“State Houses of Assembly should publish online their resolutions on findings and recommendations of the Auditor-General’s Offices.
“Auditor-General and Public Accounts Committees should be deliberate about enhancing civic participation in the audit process, implementing annual audit forums, and inviting civic and media actors to attend the review of audit reports.
“Supreme Audit Institutions should own and manage their websites without relying on Executive agencies, and State Audit Offices should publish online Annual Activity Reports,” he said.
In his remark, Mallam Badamasi Musa, Director of Planning in the Budget and Planning Commission, said there is a need for collaboration between government actors and CSOs in planning and budgeting. According to him, the CDC ensures that the community selects projects that are important to them. He, therefore, urged the lawmakers to sustain a relationship with the CSOs.
Speaking earlier, Sumayya Hussaini of the Kaduna Local Government Accountability Mechanism said the objectives of the Technical Session are to understand the importance of citizens’ participation in the audit process, identify barriers to citizen participation in the audit process, and understand the role of civil society organizations in facilitating citizen participation in the audit process.
She further said the objectives also include sharing best practices and lessons learned in promoting citizen participation in the audit process, developing concrete recommendations and action plans for strengthening citizen participation in the audit process, and providing a platform for participants to reflect on the audit process to identify challenges, opportunities, progress, as well as share experiences.