Nigeria: Auditor-General Reveals Nigerian Agency 'Notorious' for Disregarding Accountability Issues

The Auditor-General of the Federation, Anthony Ayine, has berated the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) for its notoriety in disregarding issues bordering on accountability.

The condemnation was contained in the recently released annual report of the Auditor-General for the Federation on the accounts of Nigerian agencies for the year ended December 2016.

The report, the most recent by the auditor-general, was released last month.

The NPHCDA is an agency under the health ministry. It is directly responsible for primary healthcare including regulation of primary healthcare centres across Nigeria and nationwide immunisation.

"It has become habitual for the National Primary Health Care Development Agency to disregard accountability issues. This is dangerous and should not be allowed. Accordingly, the Executive Director/CEO should be compelled to enforce my recommendations and sanctioned in line with the provisions of the Financial Regulations.

"The Agency (NPHCDA) did not respond to my Audit Inspection Report dated 2nd February, 2015 despite my reminders to that effect dated 5th August, 2015 and 29th December, 2015. This is a contravention of Financial Regulation 3101 which stipulates that "Any Accounting Officer or Public Officer who fails to give satisfactory explanations to the audit queries within the stipulated time as indicated in the provisions of this chapter of the Regulations shall be sanctioned accordingly," the official said.

An ongoing review of the audit report, obtained by PREMIUM TIMES last month, shows that seven officers of the agency were granted cash advances of N9.6 million for procurement of goods and services, an action that runs contrary to the provisions of extant regulations.

These regulations provide that accounting officers controlling expenditure are to ensure that all local procurement of stores and services costing above N200,000 be made through award of contract.

The auditor noted that in some instances, subsequent advances were granted to officers who had not retired the previous ones.

"The Executive Director/CEO was requested to ensure that the advances were recovered from the defaulting officers without further delay, multiple cash advances are discontinued forthwith and Financial Regulations and Treasury Circulars on the limit of cash advances to officers for procurement are strictly adhered to," the report said.

"Examination of records and documents presented to the Audit Team also revealed that the sum of N7 million was paid to an officer of the Agency in October 2014, ostensibly for the 2014 Promotion Interview Exercise while the names of the beneficiaries were not stated on the schedule. Further breakdown of the expenses on the schedule showed a total of N2.4 million (N2,464,000) while details of the remaining balance of N4.5 million (N4,536,000) were not attached to the payment voucher. Interestingly, the period earmarked for the exercise was only two nights, during which it was highly impossible for the interview Committee to move round the entire six zones and FCT (Hqtrs).

"On account of these circumstances, the Executive Director/CEO was requested to justify the above payment purportedly expended on 2014 promotion exercise or refund the full amount to government coffers," the report said.

The report revealed that 10 payment vouchers for amounts of about N7.3 million were not seen during the periodic check, a practice that violates the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 and contravenes financial regulation which gives the office of the auditor-general free access to the books of accounts and other documents relating to those accounts.

The auditor declared it will be difficult to accept the expenditure on those vouchers as proper and legitimate charges against public funds in the absence of proper documentation.

According to the auditor-general, "the External Auditors engaged by the Agency have over-stayed their tenure. They have already spent 8 years, meaning that they have exceeded the allowable number of years as stipulated by the Auditor-General for the Federation which specifically states that 'The tenure of the appointed Auditor should be one year in the first instance, renewable annually subject to satisfactory performance for three years and on no account should annual renewal extend the total tenure of the appointed firm or firms beyond five years".

The Executive Director/CEO was requested to immediately disengage the service of the firm and appoint another one line with Auditor-General for the Federation's guidelines on the appointment of auditors for federal government parastatals, agencies and commissions.

The spokesperson of the agency, Saadu Salahu, when contacted on phone to comment on the indictmen said he was not aware of the report.

"I have not seen the report. I am in charge of the public relations. I will look for a copy of the report and get (point) the attention of the management to it," he explained.

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