Lawmakers Summon Finance Minister, Accountant General, Others, Allege Buhari’s Appointees Frustrating Anti-corruption War

•Reject reduction of OAuGF proposed budget

The House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts (PAC) yesterday issued a 7-day ultimatum to the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed; the Acting Accountant General of the Federation, Sylva Okolieaboh; Director General, Budget Office of the Federation, Ben Akabueze, and Head of Service of the Federation, Folashade Yemi-Esan, to appear before it and explain why the budget of Office of the Auditor General of the Federation should be meagre.

The summon followed the disclosure at the 2023 budget defence session by the Auditor General of the Federation, Andrew Onwudili, that the audit office proposed budget was slashed by the Executive.

The Auditor General, Onwudili had while briefing the lawmakers disclosed that though the office proposed a total budget of N11.151 billion for 2023, what the Budget Office approved and put in the budget was N5.112 billion.

According to him, the office had proposed personnel cost of N3.041 billion as against the N2.349 billion contained in the budget; a proposal of N5.59 billion for overhead costs as against the N2.113 billion, and a proposal of N2.52 billion against the N62.70 million contained in the budget estimates.

Frowning at the development, the Committee Chairman, Oke, said the budget slash was not acceptable and would be rejected by the parliament.

He alleged that there were concerted efforts to undermine the OAuGF and eradicate, repeal illegally the supreme audit institution of the country.

Oke specifically said the parliament had seen the alleged determination of the lieutenants of President Muhammadu Buhari, particularly the Minister of Finance, the DG Budget Office, to undermine his determination to wage war against corruption on the land.

He wondered why the government appointees would allocate several billions to ancillary institutions and are giving N62 million to the office of the Auditor General of the Federation to fund Capital.

He, therefore, ruled that the above named government appointees should appear within seven days to justify the alleged deliberate attempt to cripple the auditing agency.

The lawmaker said, “It is very important at this point in time to state clearly observations. We want to observe that, the government of President Buhari was elected based on his promise, determination to tame corruption, to humble corruption in our country.

“And one of the institutions, as a matter of fact, the fundamental institution which the crafters of our constitution put in place under Section 85 is the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation.

“By Act of the Parliament, we have created ancillary institutions like ICPC, EFCC to work with the products, with the findings of the Office of the Auditor General’s office after due consideration by the Parliament.

“The audit office have to go cap in hand to pay workers? They are understaffed, they are undermined; they cannot conduct performance audit. As we speak, this office is yet to lay their reports in respect of 2022 and 2021 financial years.

“We are saying that, we are determined to wage war against corruption. We cannot see how we intend to achieve the objectives, based on which budget is formulated.

“If the Auditor General of the Federation has conducted needs assessment in terms of personnel, in the areas of working tools and have office in all the 36 states and the FCT and they came to the conclusion about what they need and submit same to the Budget Office, and the Budget Office violated that same principle, Procurement Act and now reduced the capital requirements of this agency to N62 million, reduced their overhead by N3 billion and gave the agencies of government that are doing virtually nothing billions of naira, there is no other way to tell Mr. President that his lieutenants are working against him.

“Or, are they telling Nigerians, that even the objectives laid by Mr. President is determined to undermine this supreme audit institution? Otherwise, Mr. President would have assented that bill presented to him, and this would have given the Auditor General’s office its rightful place in our country.

“We reject this budget; this budget cannot work. We are here to support President in his bid to humble corruption, to weed corruption out of the land. We owe him a duty of care to expose any of his lieutenants working against him. This is our position. Auditor General, you have to re-appear when the minister of finance, the DG Budget office and the Accountant General when they are here. “They have to tell Nigerians why they are funding agencies created by the Act of parliament and underfund a constitutional body? And I am giving them seven days to appear please. Your budget performance has been submitted to sub-committee for review. Our findings will be communicated to you.”

 

 

 

(THISDAY)

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