Say No Campaign, a coalition of eight Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), has urged the Federal Government to prosecute officials of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), indicted by audit reports recently submitted by the Auditor-General of the Federation.
The CSO groups included Peering Advocacy and Advancement Centre in Africa (PAACA), Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), YIAGA Africa, Centre for Transparency Advocacy (CTA), African Centre for media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL), Yes Project, Social Action and Protest 2 Power.
Leaders of the groups – Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, CISLAC; Ezenwa Nwagwu, Say No Campaign; Jaye Gaskia, Protest to Power, Chido Onuma, AFRICMIL; and Samson Itodo, YIAGA Africa, made the call at a news conference on Monday in Abuja.
In the paper read separately by the leaders, they said it was disturbing that more than 160 parastatals in the nation failed to submit their financial statement or management reports to the office of the Auditor-General.
“This is a blatant disregard to constitutional provision of section 85 of the 1999 constitution and the financial regulation 321 (v), which mandates all parastatals to make such submission annually.
“ The place of Audit in ensuring effective and efficient management and utilisation of resources in the Public Finance System cannot be over emphasised. This is why we are worried about the apparent systemic neglect of audit and the audit process in our public finance processes.
“If we are to curb wastage in public finance, if we are to enthrone transparency and accountability, and if we are to fight corruption effectively, the way we organise and treat the audit process must change and be radically transformed.
“ It is disturbing to know that over 160 parastatals in Nigeria failed to submit their financial statement or management reports to the office of the Auditor General.
“Interestingly, 11 more parastatals were reported to have never submitted their financial statements or audited financial reports, to the office of the AGF since their inception. Yet, they have continued to enjoy resources appropriated by the National Assembly and the office of Budget and National Planning for subsequent years.-
“The report also revealed acute financial mismanagement by MDAs and their failure to remit surplus funds, in billions, back to the country’s treasury.’’
According to them, “the overwhelming recklessness of these MDAs and their chief executives have caused this country significant waste of time and resources, poor performance, and also set the country backward, economically and infrastructure-wise.”
They said that the report was coming at a time when the Nigerian government was financially desperate to meet its basic responsibilities, hence accumulating foreign debts, against experts’ advice.
“Accountability of public institutions is the least the government can offer its people for their continuous sacrifice and torture despite the prevailing economic situation. This acute waste and irresponsibility cannot be tolerated,’’ they said
According to them, it is highly irresponsible and unacceptable to keep quiet over the defaulting outfits.
“To keep quiet over the discoveries is an indictment of the National Assembly and the office of Budget and National Planning,” he said.
The CSOs regretted that the National Assembly still approves monies for the affected MDAs in spite of the massive indictments contained in the annual audited financial report as submitted by the office of the Auditor-General.
“Such approvals are without recourse to the report submitted, and in violation of its Acts, thereby, abetting the obvious impunity exhibited by erring parastatals in ignoring their constitutional duty to be accountable in spending public funds.”
They demanded that the names of defaulting agencies and their chief executive officers be published and full investigation by anti-graft agencies launched.
They called on anti-corruption agencies to be proactive in responding adequately to these damning allegations and take the necessary actions to hold these officials and their agencies responsible.
They also demanded that erring officials should be sanctioned and made to submit all outstanding financial reports which should be thoroughly scrutinised by the office of the Auditor-General of the Federation.