The Auditor-General of the Federation (AuGF), Adolphus Aghughu has warned the country’s head of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) against late or non-submission of annual financial reports, saying grave sanctions including arrests awaits those who fail to submit theirs promptly.
Mr Aghughu said that the Directors or Heads of Accounts of such agencies would be subjected to both executive, legislative and treasury penalties for violating extant guidelines for prompt submission of the reports.
The AuGF made these assertions in a presentation titled: “Understanding annual reports and other financial and accountability documents for effective oversight” at a capacity building workshop for research fellows of the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS), in Abuja.
He insisted that no agency or organ of government is exempted from legislative oversight and audit under the Constitution – “not even the Villa, NASS or Supreme Court.”
He said that the sanctions for non-compliance with relevant laws and extant financial regulations on the prompt submission of annual financial reports range from suspension, removal from office, withholding of confirmation, denial of budgetary allocations and prosecution, “if suspected of fraud.”
He listed the sanctions for late/non-compliance with regulations on submission of annual/financial reports to include: “Invitation of Accounting Officers by the legislators to justify non/late submission of annual/financial reports.
“Issuing of Warrants of Arrest against those who failed to honour the invitation.
“Directing the removal of erring Accounting Officers or withholding the confirmation of those requiring the consent of legislators
He said that the executive sanctions include suspension or removal of erring Accounting Officer and prosecution if fraud is suspected.
According to him, the treasury sanctions include that such a: “Director or Head of Accounts of the MDA shall be given query for non-submission of Transcript (Trial Balance) and annual financial statements.
“Where there is no satisfactory answer within 21 days, allocation of funds to the MDA shall be suspended indefinitely (Financial Regulation 3123).
“Paragraph 5.4 of the Treasury Circular Ref.: OAGF/CAD/026/VOL.III/108 dated 1st December 2016, further re-emphasised issuance of query to the Director or Head of Accounts for non-compliance with the AGF’s directive on preparation and submission of statutory financial statements.”
He added that: “No agency of government is exempted from legislative oversight and audit under the Constitution – not even the Villa, NASS or Supreme Court.
“All financial transactions whether relating to security architecture of government or not must be available for oversight and audit.
“Remember, when you are out of that seat, the records will be made available by your successor if there is a probe.
“Auditors from OAuGF must be seen as partners in ensuring public accountability and not policemen.
“The Auditor-General Reports assist the Legislators to scrutinise the management of public funds by MDAs.
“All extant regulations on submission of annual reports/financial statements as well as other Financial and accountability documents must be complied with to avoid queries/sanctions.
“There should be strong administrative will to invoke the appropriate sanctions on erring Accounting Officers for failure to or late submission of annual reports/financial statements and other accountability documents.
“With this, Nigeria will not be seen by the international community as an unserious nation where anything goes.
“There is no alternative to full compliance with laws and other extant regulations on preparation and submission of annual report/financial statements.”
He noted that the implications of late/non-submission of annual financial reports are that the “Accountant General will: Have nothing to consolidate if the MDAs fail to submit their annual financial reports/financial statements.
“Submit consolidated FS (Financial Statements) after the deadline stipulated by the FRA (Fiscal Responsibility Act) 2007.
“The Auditor-General will have nothing to Audit and report on as required by Section 85(5) of the Constitution.
“The legislators will have nothing to scrutinise (oversight becomes difficult).
“The executive will have no basis to justify allocation to MDAs, approval of another term for CEOs (Chief Executive Officers), etc.
“The public is denied of assessment tool of those occupying positions of authority.”
The Director-General of NILDS, Prof. Abubakar Sulaiman, in his opening remarks, said that the focus of the workshop was to expose participants to some of the fundamental and inner workings of the National Assembly.
According to him, the fundamentals of the National Assembly include the “operations of specialised committees, relationship between the legislature at the national and sub-national levels, the relationship between supreme audit institutions and the National Assembly as well as legislative procedures for processing special oversight documents such as annual reports and other financial and accountability documents.”
He added: “The workshop also considers other issues such as inter-chamber cooperation, the operations of legislative caucuses and how to leverage on research to improve the oversight function of the Assembly.”
By Abel Ejikeme