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Auditor-general indicts presidency, EFCC, NASS | The Guardian Nigeria News – Nigeria and World News

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Auditor-General for the Federation, Anthony Mkpe Ayine

• Accuses agencies of violating accounting rules, failing to submit fiscal reports
• MDAs without audited reports increased from 148 in 2014 to 323 in 2018
• Financial indiscipline blamed on Buhari’s inaction, failure to sign anti-graft bills

Almost all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) have been indicted for financial wrongdoings in the latest fiscal assessment of the country.

The indictment came against the backdrop of the much-talked-about fight against corruption being waged by the Federal Government.

Some of the cases of irregularity included improper records of transactions, unsubstantiated claims and outright non-report. For instance, an estimated N500 billion was submitted to the National Assembly. But the money, according to the 2016 report by the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation, was not properly accounted for.

The situation however might not be resolved any sooner because of a lack of enabling laws that would compel and sanction erring MDAs that ignore audit queries.

The Auditor-General of the Federation (AGF), Anthony Ayine, lamented that the gross violation of statutory financial reporting obligations by government agencies is worrisome.

“Most of the government corporations, companies and commissions have not submitted their audited accounts for 2016 to me. Only 51 audited financial statements for 2016, and 149 for 2015, have been submitted to my office as at December 27, 2017, despite the provision of Financial Regulation 3210(v), which enjoins these bodies to submit both audited accounts and management report to me not later than May 31 of the following year of account.

“As at April 2018, 109 agencies have not submitted beyond 2013; 76 agencies last submitted for the 2010 financial year; while 65 agencies have never submitted any account since inception,” Ayine said.

An analysis of the report showed that government agencies, despite the anti-corruption campaign, have increasingly become more reckless with public finance, with 323 agencies failing to submit reports in 2016. In 2015 and 2014 however defaulters numbered 215 and 148.

Highlighting a breach of transparency and accounting standards, the report further detailed unremitted deductions worth more than N3.79 billion involving over 40 agencies including the presidency, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), and the National Assembly.

It noted that about N13.96 billion reported as salaries and wages in the consolidated financial statement of the EFCC were not in the anti-graft agency’s trial balance submitted for reconciliation.

Besides, the EFCC was listed as one of the agencies with “doubtful cash balance” of over N315 million. Others on the list include the House of Representatives (N291.68 million) and Lagos University Teaching Hospital (N343.7 million).

The State House, Office of the Chief of Staff to the President, and EFCC led 62 other MDAs on the list of government offices with outstanding personal advances estimated at N4.87 billion as at December 31, 2016.

The audit inspection of accounting records at the Federal Ministry of Health showed several overdue cash advances of N380.9 million outstanding as at October 2016. Some of these have been outstanding since 2014, even as multiple others were granted without retiring the previous ones, contrary to financial regulations on granting and retirement of advances.

The magnitude of the amount involved suggests the absence of an effective internal control in respect of advances.

At the Ministry of Trade and Investment, 13 payment vouchers of N60.39 million were raised for payment of estacode and air tickets for staff. All were, however, without supporting documents as required by Financial Regulation 603.

President Muhammadu Buhari has consequently been accused of encouraging fiscal indiscipline by refusing to assent to sensitive bills on fiscal governance. He has also been blamed for showing a lack of concern for the economy by keeping the national budget perpetually “incapacitated” and subjecting it to a three-month abuse by delaying the appointment of ministers.

The president who has repeatedly said he would return the budget calendar to the January-December cycle rejected the Budget Timeframe Bill and has not come up with a working alternative. Also, since January 2019, a duly passed Federal Audit Reform Bill sent to him for assent has not been signed. There has not been any communication from the presidency about its rejection.

The bills however have lapsed. Since the Eighth Assembly which drafted them has ended, they would require fresh legislative exercise, lasting years perhaps, and additional millions of naira in cost.

The fiscal anomaly meanwhile appears set to continue.

In his reaction, Taiwo Oyedele, Partner/Head of Tax and Corporate Advisory Services at PwC Nigeria, stressed the need for fiscal transparency in the country. He cited a national survey by the Nigerian Economic Summit Group, which showed that about two in every three adults do not trust government with their taxes, hence about 83 per cent of individuals and nearly 70 per cent of businesses do not consider tax evasion as wrong.

“With such a high level of apathy towards tax, it is impossible to move the needle on revenue generation. Government at all levels must urgently start taking steps to address fiscal transparency issues to build the much-needed trust in the system.

“Based on the audit report by the AGF, it was revealed that the National Assembly, the presidency and some agencies such as the EFCC defaulted in remitting various taxes, including the Pay As You Earn of their staff and Value Added Tax (VAT) on payments to their vendors,” Oyedele said.

He noted further: “This trend unfortunately sends the wrong signal from the top and further dampens citizens’ tax morale. The vast majority of citizens and Nigerian businesses are unwilling to voluntarily comply with their tax obligations mainly because of lack of transparency and non-commensurate social services.

“This is a key factor responsible for Nigeria’s low tax to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio. Addressing the problem could easily raise the country’s tax revenue by over 100 per cent, from the current six per cent to at least 12 per cent of GDP.”

The Lead Director of the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), Eze Onyekpere, on his part, faulted the president’s rejection of the Budget Timeframe Bill.

He said: “It was clearly evident that the president was misled and misadvised by his legal and fiscal governance team. In one breath, he kept repeating the desire of his administration to return the budget calendar to normalcy but when the opportunity presented itself on a platter of gold, to walk the talk, he declined.

“The bill was not an executive bill and he offered no old or new ideas on how the bill could be remedied, to return to the January-December calendar,” he said.

Onyekpere noted that the Federal Audit Service Commission Bill or the Audit Reform Bill received a much colder treatment. According to him, “The president neither formally declined assent nor gave assent to this bill. It is customary when the president declines assent to send a letter to the National Assembly, indicating his reasons for declining assent. He just acted as if the bill was not forwarded to him.

“It shows a clear lack of understanding of what is needed for fiscal governance, transparency and anti-corruption reforms. It could also be interpreted as a lack of political will on the part of the administration to implement reforms. The implication is that the government does not believe in most of what it says. It believes more in the propaganda of reforms, rather than actually implementing real reforms.

“There is evidence of lack of capacity and political will on the part of this administration to timely and properly account for resource expenditure. Budget Implementation Reports (BIRs) no longer come on time and no longer reflect what actually happened.

“Fiscal stability is part of fiscal responsibility and transparent reporting is a key cornerstone of the two. Therefore Nigeria cannot be said to be fiscally stable in an environment of uncertainty and failure to report timelines, coupled with the administration’s impunity mindset that believes it owes the citizens no reporting obligation.”

The audit bill was expected to reveal and plug channels of corruption, compel and sanction MDAs that ignore audit queries, monitor compliance of MDAs, and make the office of the AGF independent.

Dr. Titilayo Eni-tan Fowokan said such low-level fiscal compliance by government offices is obtainable when enforcement is applied on corporate taxpayers and citizens without commensurate pressure and oversight on government agencies.

According to the Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria, “When a country is transparent in reporting its resource utilisation and demonstrates accountability to the citizens, voluntary tax compliance is encouraged and the level of tax compliance vis-a-vis tax revenue generation increases.”

Also, a development consultant, Jide Ojo, told The Guardian it is disheartening that the president rejected bills that would have ensured good governance after resources had been expended on their passage.

“Now that the government has signed on to Open Government Partnership, it needs to show better transparency and accountability in governance. This will help in the crusade against corruption and financial instability,” Ojo said.

In his own submission, Executive Director of Media Rights Agenda Edetaen Ojo said: “The fact is that our current audit system is quite archaic and in dire need of modernisation. So, it is very important that a system that has passed through a participatory and consultative process of a variety of stakeholders and also responds to the key concerns of independence and reliability is put in place.”

According to him, while President Buhari is not an expert on issues of fiscal governance, the quality of assistance he is getting from his advisers and other relevant officials is disturbing.

“As a president who has put anti-corruption as his biggest preoccupation, this is an issue that has a huge impact on public sector corruption and should therefore be a priority for him, if he intends to be effective in his war against corruption.

“It seems to me that the anti-corruption war is deliberately backward-looking, as it tends to target government officials in the last administration with good reason, but is extremely reluctant to institute legal measures to stem or prevent future acts of corruption, and even more reluctant to go after members of the administration who have also been accused of acts of corruption.

“If that is the entire strategy, it is flawed and bound to fail because such an approach would only serve to politicise the anti-corruption war and thereby undermine its effectiveness.”

Nigeria

Gov AbdulRazaq urges youths to shun drug abuse, other vices

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Gov AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq of Kwara has called on Nigerian youths to shun drug abuse and other vices that could hinder them from realising their lifetime ambitions.

AbdulRazaq made the call on Wednesday when he received members of the state chapter of Scouts’ Association of Nigeria (SAN), led by its Commissioner, Deacon Olabisi Afolayinka, at the Government House, Ilorin.

The governor, who recalled, with nostalgia, his days as a scout boy in Capital School, Kaduna, said that the organisation had contributed immensely to nurturing youths to become good citizens and contribute to the development of the country.

“This is an association that prepares youths on how to be good citizens and how to relate with their fellow countrymen.

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“These are virtues that the youth of today should maintain. In our own days as youths, there were no rampant cases of drug abuse,” he said.

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The governor urged the youth to use their energy for productive ventures and join the organisation to make positive contributions to society.

AbdulRazaq, who was made the organisation’s Ambassador of Peace, promised to live up to expectations by giving necessary support to the body through relevant government agencies.

Earlier in his remarks, Afolayanka said that the constitution of the body automatically made the governor of any state its patron and the president grand patron.

He commended AbdulRazaq for the audience granted the association, saying that this was the first time any governor would be hosting them in the state in the last 21 years.

Afolayanka said that the association was founded to build young boys and girls to make useful contributions to the country.

The SAN commissioner noted that cultism and other vices were not rampant in schools in the past when the scouts held sway.

He urged the governor to continue to support the association for effective discharge of its responsibilities in the state.

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Nigeria

NYSC: Bwari assures Corp members improved welfare

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The Chairman of Bwari Area Council, Mr John Gabaya has assured members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) of his administration’s readiness to improve on their welfare.

Gabaya gave the assurance when representatives of the FCT NYSC Secretariat, and some members of the NYSC 2019 Batch B’, paid him a courtesy visit on Wednesday in Abuja.

Gabaya, who appreciated the team for the gesture, said that it was the duty of the council, as host of the NYSC Orientation Camp in the city to ensure it gave the Corps maximum support.

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He acknowledged the fact that the camp in Kubwa, was faced with infrastructure challenges, adding that efforts would be made to amendments it and bring succour to the corps members.

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“The council, in its capacity, alongside the management of the scheme, would meet and discuss how it would make the development feasible including our best effort to add a little raise to their allowance,” Gabaya said.

Earlier, the NYSC FCT Coordinator, Mrs Waleeda Isa, said the visit was to acquaint its officials with the new administration of the council as host of the orientation camp.

Isa decried the sorry state of infrastructure at the NYSC camp, saying “their lodge in the camp is dilapidated and needs attention”.

“Also, it would go a long way for those who serve under the council, if your administration can kindly add a little to their allowance to augment what the Federal Government is giving them.

“We will be honoured if you make these efforts so that we feel your presence and know that you have us at heart,” she said.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the NYSC 2019 Batch B’ corp members have reported and would be inaugurated at the orientation camp on Aug. 22.

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Nigeria

Lagos govt boosts MCC services in Eti-Osa Tribune Online

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THE Lagos State Government says it has completed yet another Maternal and Childcare Centre (MCC) located in Eti-Osa Local Government Area of the state to increase residents’ access to qualitative maternal and child healthcare.

The state Commissioner of Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, made this known on Wednesday in Lagos during an advocacy meeting with community leaders and residents of Badore.

Abayomi was represented by the Director of Projects, Ministry of Health, Dr Olusola Oduwole.

He said that the continuous implementation of strategic maternal child survival interventions, policies, programmes and projects by the government was geared toward the reduction of maternal and child mortality in the state.

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According to him, the local and national statistics of maternal and child mortality and morbidity rate are of utmost concern to the government hence, the adoption of various strategies to combat it.

“One of these strategies is the construction of MCC, a specialised healthcare centre for mothers and children.

“It is aimed at taking maternal and child healthcare closer to the people by reducing the travel time and improving the quality care to the highest possible standard,” the commissioner said.

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Abayomi said that the MCC was located on Ogombo Road along Abraham Adesanya Estate in Eti-Osa local government area.

According to him, the facility is a four-floored 110-bed complex designed to respond to maternal and child health issues.

“It will provide quality services for the restoration, improvement and promotion of the health and well-being of women, babies and children in the local government area and adjoining communities.

“It has two theatres where surgeries can be done; consulting rooms; treatment rooms, antenatal and postnatal wards; baby nursery; pharmacy, laboratory and offices, among others,” he said.

Abayomi said that the construction of MCCs in the state was designed to stem the tide of maternal deaths which occurred as a result of delivery by unskilled birth attendants, haemorrhage, infection, obstructed labour and malaria, among others.

He said that women should not die in the course of life procreation process.

“The concept of the construction of MCCs was mooted with the conviction that these interventions will impact positively on the health indices of our mothers and children who constitute a significant percentage of clients attended to at public health facilities.

“The Eti-Osa MCC will commence operation before the end of the week and will serve as a referral centre to all primary health facilities in Eti-Osa local government and accompanying communities.

“It will yield the much desired and anticipated impact towards the reduction of maternal and child mortality in the area,” the commissioner said.

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Nigeria

Psychiatric resident doctors vow to continue strike %

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THE Association of Resident Doctors, Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Yaba, has resolved to continue its ongoing indefinite strike demanding for optimal mental healthcare for patients.

The President of the association, Dr Afeez Enifeni, said in a statement on Wednesday, in Lagos, that the strike would continue until the management addressed the work experience of the overworked doctors.

Enifeni said that the doctors had on Aug. 19 held a meeting to review the current industrial action.

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The doctors accused the hospital management of being insensitive to the plight of the in and outpatients, who according to him, are receiving suboptimal mental health services.

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“The hospital management has blatantly refused to replace the annual exit of resident doctors for the past four years.

“Instead, they have let patient load and clinical work increase significantly for hapless resident doctors whose health and academic pursuits have suffered irreparably.

“In light of the above, the management’s insistence on employing only five locum doctors is highly provocative of our demands.

“It hardly improves the status quo which already puts overworked resident doctors at the brink of academic failure, health challenges and malpractice suits,” he said.

He urged President Muhammadu Buhari to prevail on the hospital’s management to do the needful in line with the administration’s next level agenda.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that the resident doctors had embarked on an indefinite strike on July 31 over non-employment of more resident doctors at the hospital.

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Nigeria

AIDS: Society says self-stigma more destructive than HIV/AIDS

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THE Coalition of Civil Society Network on HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (COCSNHAN) on Wednesday said that self-stigma was more destructive to people living with HIV than the disease.

Mr Ikenna Nwakamma, first Co-chairman of the society, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja that it was the major reason people living with HIV default from treatments.

Nwakamma, who called for the incorporation of mental health services in the national HIV programme, said it was imperative to rescue patients from the dangers of self-stigma.

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“Very important, the issues of self-stigma is hardly talked about and that is even more destructive; it is the major reason people living with HIV default in their treatment,” he said.

The society’s co-chairman explained that mental health would make people living with HIV become co-managers of their health.

According to him, mental health problems among people living with HIV is the new epidemic and we must deal with it squarely.

Nwakamma restated the plans of the society to set up a monitoring system that would capture and report cases of stigma and discrimination in health facilities.

He promised that any identified case would be used to send a strong warning to others.

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