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Senate threatens to withhold EFCC, TCN, others’ budgets over unaudited accounts

The Senate has given  an ultimatum to over 256 Federal Government’s agencies and parastatals to present reports of their audited accounts up to 2017 or have their 2018 budgets withheld.
The upper chamber of the National Assembly issued the ultimatum while considering the report by the Committee on Public Accounts on the ‘Status of Compliance of Parastatals’ Submission of Audited Accounts’ at the plenary on Wednesday.
The Senate decried that only about 10 per cent of the 491 bodies had presented reports of their audited reports to the Auditor-General of the Federation as required by Section 85(3) of the 1999 Constitution.
To be affected by the deadline are 256 bodies who have not filed their reports in over two years or never at all, while 235 are either up to date or have arrears of two years and below.
In the report, the committee said 85 bodies had never submitted their reports since they were created.
The most prominent in this category are the Ajaokuta Steel Company, Ajaokuta, Kogi State; Bank of Agriculture, Kaduna; Bank of Industry, Abuja; Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Abuja; Nigeria Football Federation, Abuja; and the Transmission Company of Nigeria, Abuja.
The report also said 47 bodies had fully complied, while those with arrears of between one and two years were 235; those between three and five years were 103; those between six and 10 years were 17, while those with 11 years’ arrears and above were four.
Most prominent among those who have arrears of more than two years are the Bureau of Public Enterprises (8), Bureau of Public Procurement (7), Debt Management Office (6), Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (7), Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (6), Financial Reporting Council (6), and the Independent National Electoral Commission (6).
Other prominent ones with six years’ arrears are the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, National Health Insurance Scheme, Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, National Insurance Commission, and the Nigerian Meteorological Agency.
Bodies like the Corporate Affairs Commission, Nigerian Ports Authority, National Pension Commission, National Bureau of Statistics, Securities and Exchange Commission also have between four and five years arrears.
Listing its findings, the committee said, “Many parastatals are unwilling to submit their audited accounts without being compelled and this is in violation of their establishment Acts. Some parastatals do not take accountability in public expenditure seriously.
“There are no prescribed penalties for offenders of non-timely submission of audited accounts. There are serious consequences for this offence in other climes.
“Status of privatised or scrapped parastatals is not clear, e.g. the Nigerian Coal Corporation, National Board for Commercial Banks, etc.
“The Auditor-General for  the Federation is handicapped due to budgetary and manpower constraints of the office to issue timely comments on submitted audited accounts.
“The Auditor-General for the Federation seems to place less premium on high profile parastatals with huge accounts as there are less comments on their accounts, e.g. NNPC, NPA, NIMASA, CBN, TETFUND, etc.
“A parastatal like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission misinterprets the reporting requirements in their enabling Acts to violate the constitution.”
Other approved recommendations include that, “The Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation should constantly update and reconcile with parastatals on their status of compliance; and should liaise with the Bureau for Public Enterprises and the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation to clarify status of privatised and merged/scrapped parastatals.
“The Auditor-General’s Office should be strengthened through the provision of adequate budgetary allocations.
“The Executive arm of government should promptly reconstitute boards of parastatals when they are dissolved to enable them to approve the appointment of external auditors.
“The Senate should hasten the consideration of the Federal Audit Service Bill, which stipulate penalties for offenders.”
The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, expressed his dismay over non-compliance by most of the parastatals and agencies.
He however noted that the discovery from the probe and the action that would follow it would go a long way to support the executive in the fight against corruption. - The Citizen

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