The alarm was raised as a result of the urgent need for the strengthening of the Office of the Auditor General for the Federation (OAuGF) to effectively fight corruption in Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) of the government.
The calls for strengthening OAuGF were made during an anti-corruption radio programme, PUBLIC CONSCIENCE, produced by the Progressive Impact Organization for Community Development, PRIMORG, Wednesday in Abuja.
Speaking during the radio programme, the Programme Manager – Public Finance Management, Center for Social Justice Nigeria, Fidelis Onyejegbu, underscored the importance of a new audit law while urging President Buhari to push for the passage of a new audit bill, stressing that it will be a significant feat in the fight against corruption.
Onyejegbu, who alluded that Nigeria needs a brand new audit law, stressed that the 1956 Audit Law still in use is obsolete and too weak to fight corruption.
“We need a new audit law, which is not up for debate. But one thing we also need to do is to see what best way to promote trust.
“If the government does not improve the trust or try to bridge the trust deficit between the leaders and the led, it will be difficult to govern at any level. Citizens want to hear fewer issues of missing funds, then you can build trust, then govern, and you cannot do all of these without a new audit law that would oversee the expenditure of public resources.”
He noted that the average Nigerian is after huge government expenses translating into good roads and hospitals, adding that “all of these (basic amenities) cannot be provided without public resources working for the people, and how can that happen when expenditures are not scrutinized using the tool of more modern audit legislation? And that can happen when the president signs a new audit bill into law,” Onyejegbu stated.
He called for inquiries into why audit bills failed to be passed since Nigeria’s return to democratic rule in 1999.
On three occasions, bills have been introduced and approved at the highest level, and it was at the desk of the president that they fell through. So, what we need to do now is to dig deeper and find out why those bills were not approved, address those reasons why they said no, agree on what we want to do, and then come back because it is unheard of that a law of 1956 is still the law we are a reference to in 21st-century auditing.
Towing the same line, the Executive Editor at Forefront Magazine, Cobham Nsa, called on the government to make getting the nation a new audit law a top priority.
NSA said the interest of political leaders had become a major constraint to why the Office of the Auditor General for the Federation has not been strengthened over the years, lamenting that Nigerians are still suffering over financial improprieties happening at various MDAs.
He noted that the reluctance to strengthen federal auditing by past and current heads of government was deliberate to avoid them being indicted by the implementation of the auditor general report.
His words: “Nigerians have suffered from this issue of lack of implementation of the auditor general report, but you have to look at it in the context of the system we are operating. Someone appoints the auditor general, and he reports not directly to the person but the parliament. There is a constitutional issue, a legal issue, and political issues around it.
“I believe that the appointment into that office should be thrown open, people should apply for it, and an interview panel created to interview them rather than having somebody to appoint someone. Consciously or subconsciously, the man who appointed you, you would want to owe allegiance to him.”
“A new audit bill should be a top priority, then the budgeting process too. The law is important. Citizens should take responsibility in asking questions about the audit,” Nsa said.
Public Conscience is a syndicated weekly anti-corruption radio program used by PRIMORG to draw government and citizens’ attention to corruption and integrity issues in Nigeria.
The program has the support of the MacArthur Foundation.