We commend the Senate public Account committee for responding to the yearnings of Nigerians to sanction Ministry, Departments and Agencies-MDAs who have failed to comply with the constitutional mandate to submit their annual audit report to the office of the auditor general of the federation. The news of the upper chamber’s summon of these erring MDAs right after the call from the conveners of Say No Campaign and its anticorruption cohorts to take action, is an indication of the readiness of the current leadership of the senate to work with Nigerians in the interest of the country.
While we commend the senate for its prompt response, we are concerned that these errant MDAs might only receive a slap on their wrists for the gross violation of the constitution and the mismanagement of allocated resources. The laxity with which the executives of these MDAs are treating the issue, by failing to appear, in person, before the Auditor general to answer its query, confirms that even these MDAs expect to walk free.
The Senate public Account Committee has responded that all errant MDAs will be probed and no ‘sacred cows’ will be spared. While this may sound reassuring, the senate has a lot to prove to win the confidence of Nigerians that indeed no sacred cow will be spared. As it stands, the committee has begun meeting with these recalcitrant MDAs without the prying eye of Nigerians, especially the civil society organizations, hence obstructing transparency. This singular action has raised a lot of questions about the committee’s intentions for meeting the MDAs, prior to their summoning to the floor of the senate.
There is no gainsaying that previous assemblies have failed to adequately oversight MDAs, monitor their performance or scrutinize their reports. The fact that we are dealing with 2017 audit report in 2020 is a testament to the obvious. The committee has pledged its commitment to clear backlogs of audit reports of MDAs from 2015 to 2018, make recommendations and transmit to the executive for proper sanctions, this is apt and commendable, however, we urge the committee to be transparent in it enquiry; open its session to public participation and thorough in its report and recommendations. At the end of the day, we want to see individuals lose their jobs and others return unaccounted funds or go to jail. Anything short of this will translate into ‘business as usual’.
We also urge the 9th assembly, unlike its predecessor, to be proactive in discharging its duties. The practice of late submission or non compliance with financial obligations by MDAs can be addressed, not only through the passage of the Federal Audit Bill, but also by being regular in its summons of MDAs and intentional in exerting sanctions with deterrent effects. This senate has an opportunity to improve the public sector and groom a culture of accountability and prudence, Nigerians are hoping that it doesn’t disappoint.
Ezenwa Nwagwu- Say No Campaign