For allegedly preventing budget audit…
By IHEANACHO NWOSU and CHUKS AKUNNA, Abuja
The House of Representatives has summoned the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN) Governor, Mr. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi and Director-General of Budget Office in the Presidency, Dr. Bright Okongwu, over allegation that they prevented the audit of the 2012 budget. The trio who are expected to appear today before the House Public Accounts Committee (PAC) for allegedly withholding over N4billion earmarked for the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation, resulting to the latter not having enough resources to audit the outgoing year’s budget.
The Auditor-General, Mr Samuel Ukura, claimed at the weekend during a session with the PAC that the Ministry of Finance allegedly released a paltry N892.5million out of the N5.2billion provided for the budget audit. The revelation led the lawmakers to reach a consesus to invite Okonjo-Iweala, Sanusi and Okongwu, who he alleged frustrated the release of the allocation to his office. Ukura also told the committee that there was a zero allocation to his office in the 2013 budget for the auditing of the Federation Account.
The Auditor-General, who was appointed on October 16, 2010, accused the Finance Ministry of frustrating the audit allocations to his office, lamenting that the situation was threatening to make the Audit Office redundant. Right now, he said that his office cannot audit certain ministries owing to lack of funds. Ukura said, “with the meagre allocation to our office, we cannot even audit some ministries”. For instance, he disclosed that his office managed to “audit only 44 out of 97 foreign missions, because of paucity of funds this year”. Incensed by the revelation, members of the committee headed by Hon. Solomon Olamilekan Adeola (ACN-Lagos), lashed out at the Ministry of Finance, demanding financial autonomy for the Auditor-General’s Office.
According to a member of the committee, Hon. Pally Iriase (ACN-Edo State), “if you look at this budget (of Auditor-General), it shows how unserious we are about tackling corruption in this country”. He said, “this budget ought to signpost our seriousness in tackling the issue of corruption headlong, but the Ministry of Finance and the Budget Office in their own strange wisdom have decided that the best thing to do is to frustrate the Office of the Auditor-General” Also, Hon. Karimi Sunday (ACN-Kogi) said, “there is a continuous attempt to frustrate and render the Office of the Accountant-General redundant.
They (Ministry of Finance and Budget Office) don’t want the office to do their work, but there is the need for this committee to do their work”. Chairman of the committee, Hon. Adeola, said the findings of his panel indicated that “the Auditor-General of the Federation is not even given the opportunity of fair hearing”. He claimed that the” Minister of Finance and the D-G, Budget Office sit together to draw budget for the Auditor-General without giving him the opportunity to defend it”. The committee, however deferred consideration of N1.6billion as the committee’s budget in 2013 as proposed by the ministry.