Nigeria: Buhari Blames Lax Auditing for Governance Problems

29 January 2020

Abuja — President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday said the governance problems experienced in the country are largely tied to ineffective audits by the auditing profession.

He said auditors needed to decide not to be part of the governance issues plaguing the country but rather chose to be the "arrow to the solution."

Buhari also said no public servants should be afraid of audit if they have nothing to hide, and be encouraged to embrace audit as a means of improving their performance and not as a threat.

Speaking while declaring the second edition of the Conference of Auditors General in Nigeria with the theme: 'Building Government Audit Institutions in Nigeria: Needs for the 21st Century', open in Abuja, the president said good governance, accountability and transparency are the hallmark of his administration, and further described auditors as "champions of the fight against corruption."

The conference also presented the 'Champion of Transparency and Anti-Corruption' award to the president in recognition of his hard stance against corruption.

Buhari said if auditors have not compromised their jobs, some of the recoveries from proceeds of corruption and eventual convictions would not have happened.

He said: "Has any annual Financial Statements produced by any of the states received anything other than a clean audit opinion as far back as you can remember?

"You will admit that this is strange in view of the significant cases of misappropriation that have been uncovered, the huge balances that have been recovered and the sentences being served by convicted officials including past state governors.

"One can either assume that the audits are not thoroughly done, the auditors have been compromised, or the auditors are constrained in some way or other.

"You will know best what your constraints are, but I encourage you to reflect on this issue. What will it take to do a thorough job for the sake of your local government area, your state, Nigeria and the future generations?"

The president, however, tasked the auditors to maximise the use of their constitutional powers in the fight against corruption, stressing that they have the latitude to audit all public institutions without exceptions and challenged their will to carry out their duties.

Buhari, however, expressed concern that ineffective audits had contributed largely to governance problems over the years, urging auditors to embrace good governance, accountability and transparency, which are hallmarks of this administration.

He said: "As accountability institutions in the federal, states and local government, and as the institutions empowered by the constitution to review the financial performance of public officers even where there has been no petition or allegation, you are uniquely placed to tackle corrupt practices.

"Through your audit findings and recommendations, corrupt practices would be discovered early and loopholes blocked before they are exploited. Furthermore, you have the full range of audit tools at your disposal, including financial compliance, performance and information technology audits.

There is literally no aspect of government performance or expenditure you cannot examine. What may be missing is the will to properly deploy the powers that you have.

"In which case, I will remind you that under-performance by auditors or ineffective audits have contributed largely to governance problems. Auditors therefore need to decide not to be part of the problem but the arrow to the solution."

However, Ayine, in his remarks, said a lot of work still needed to be done, noting that the country is yet to attain its potential in human development index due to corruption.

He said the country still lagged behind in health, education, power, environmental protection, shelter/housing among others in spite of its huge resource endowments due to massive corruption in the past decades.

But he said the present administration is charting a new course and laying a solid foundation for effective utilisation and application of available resources.

The AuGF further vowed total support of auditors to the administration fight against corruption, acknowledging that the presidential directive in 2015 to MDAs to ensure prompt response to audit queries has been effective in ensuring transparency and accountability in the management of the country's resources.

He said the absence of an Audit Act, which is a basic requirement for Supreme Audit Institutions (SAI) constituted a major obstacle to its operation, though a process of reforms embarked upon in 2017 had been making steady progress.

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