NASS prescribes 5-yr jail term for defaulters in Fed Audit Bill
By Benjamin Arida://
National Assembly on Wednesday, passed the Federal Audit Service Bill which prescribes among others, a five-year jail term for any accounting officer, who prevents the Office of the Auditor General for the Federation, OAuGF from accessing their account books.
The Senate concurred with the House of Representatives which had earlier passed the proposed legislation.
Senate Leader, Senator Ibrahim Gobir, led the debate for the concurrence which the red chamber approved after dissolving to the committee of the Whole.
The chairman, Senate Public Accounts Committee, Senator Matthew Urhoghide (APC Edo South), told journalists after plenary that the bill, which was first passed in the 8th Senate, seeks to strengthen the office of the Auditor General for the Federation.
He said: “The Office of the Auditor General for the Federation is supposed to check systemic corruption in Nigeria by checking all expenditure of the ministries, department and agencies of government as provided for by Section 85 of the Constitution.
“The Office of the Auditor General for the Federation is independent of the executive arm of government. He relates directly with the National Assembly.
“The second aspect of the bill is the establishment of the Federal Audit Commission to be able to recruit the proper staff, discipline and promotion.
“Audit is a very peculiar department but right now, we have those who did not study accounting being employed and working in the Audit House probably for political reasons.
“The commission will be responsible for the recruitment of proper staff that would be able to audit the accounts of the over 797 federal agencies.”
According to Senator Urhoghide, the country needs a proper workforce to be able to do that, saying that the OAuGF was having over 3000 workforce but had reduced to 1200 staff now.
“The bill was passed by the 8th National Assembly, President Muhammadu Buhari did not assent to it. Some people in the executive advised him wrongly against it. His action was at cross purpose with the President who campaigned on the mantra of anti corruption. We believed that he was not properly briefed, hence he witheld assent then.
“The 9th Assembly believe that one of the legacies we must leave behind is to pass the Federal Audit Service Bill which will check corruption before it is carried out.
“The anti-graft agencies had practically taken over the job of the Auditor General for the Federation.
“The Forensic Audit that was set up for the Niger Delta Development Commission was a violation of the constitution. It the work of the Auditor General for the Federation.
“The first time we had audit ordinance was in 1956. We have now changed a law that has been in place for over 60 years.
“More powers have been given to the office of the Auditor General for the Federation.
“The least penalty that we have now in the bill for an individual is five year imprisonment or a fine of five million or both.
“The House of Representatives passed N500,000 or two years imprisonment but we rejected it. This is because the penalty must serve the purpose and as a good deterrent. So, the penalty has to be severe.
“For corporate agencies that refused to audit their accounts for years, their fine is N20million, the house recommended N10million but we disagreed,” he stressed.