Public Accounts Committee Of The House Of Representatives Unveiled

….promises a paradigm shift in monitoring public funds

… Speaker advocates for more funding of the AuGF office

… stakeholders call for robust oversight functions

Stakeholders in the management of public finance in Nigeria have identified with the clear-cut work roadmap of the 10th House of Representatives Public Accounts Committee (PAC) headed by Representative Bamidele Salam.

Speaking in Abuja on Monday, 16th October 2023 during the unveiling of the strategic focus of the 10th House of Representatives PAC committee, Rep. Salam expressed displeasure over the non-consideration of the PAC reports for 25 years, vowing to ensure a paradigm shift by ensuring timely submission of the reports.

He made a case for the House leadership to liaise with the Executive to fast-track the appointment of substantive Auditor General of the Federation, noting that Dr. Onwudili Ogochukwu has been acting in the capacity of Auditor General for over one year.

While noting that the absence of a substantive Auditor General of the Federation has negatively impacted the work of the House Committee on Public Accounts, he assured that the Committee is under his watch by considering the 2019 to 2025 Auditor General’s reports.

“At the moment what we have is the 2019 report and I believe strongly that as soon as we have an appointment of substantive Auditor General of the Federation it will not be difficult for us to have the 2020 and 2021 reports at least to start with. And we hope that in the course of this 10th Assembly, we would be able to get to 2025 with the cooperation of the Accountant General and the Auditor General of the Federation,” Hon. Salam stressed.

He also assured Nigerians of his Committee’s resolve towards achieving a 100 percent review of the public accounts with a focus on high-risk areas, ensuring compliance of MDAs with the Appropriation Act, Procurement Act, and other extant financial laws and regulations.

In the bid to ensure effective service delivery of the Committee, he pledged to prioritize the welfare of the staff of the Committee, just as he harped on collaboration with Civil Society Organizations, Media as well as relevant Standing Committees of the House and Senate.

In his address, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Tajudeen Abbas underscored the need for adequate funding for the office of the Auditor General of the Federation (oAuGF) in the bid to ensure accountability and effective use of public funds.

Hon. Abbas who stated this during the official unveiling of the House Committee on Public Accounts chaired by Hon. Bamidele Salam (PDP-Osun), l proposed one percent of the federal budgetary allocation for the oAuGF to effectively carry out its statutory functions of auditing the accounts of over 900 Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).

The Speaker who was represented by his Deputy, Hon. Benjamin Kalu, pledged solidarity with the OAuGF. He said: “The National Assembly is interested and committed to the office of the Auditor General. What’s adequate for that job to be done, fully well, is at least one percent of the total budget of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“That’s what that office needs if they must do the job and do it very well. We are committed as people with the power of the purse to review the budget of the Auditor General office unless we don’t want the 900 MDAs to be well over-sighted.

“As the civil society mentioned, most of these MDAs were not touched, and the issue is due to a lack of adequate resources for the auditor general’s office to get the job done.

“What is at least needed to get the job done fully well, is at least one percent of the total budget of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. We are talking about N218 billion, that is what that office needs.

“We should not make them magicians, we should equip them sufficiently to pursue the money of Nigeria so that the work of the National Assembly will be easier,” he noted.

While noting that the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is one of the most important Committees of the House and its importance is underscored by its express creation by Section 85(5) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), Hon. Abbas assured that the PAC under the 10th Assembly “is committed to deepening its engagement with the Executive Arm of Government to ensure that Ministries, Departments, and Agencies of government uphold the principles of accountability, transparency, and prudence in the management of public finance.

“The PAC is also committed to strengthening the office of the Auditor General of the Federation in line with best global practices.”

According to him, the “recent passage of the Federal Audit Bill to repeal the 1956 Audit Ordinance was in line with this commitment. The PAC’s mandate is very broad and expansive. It covers all aspects of government finance, including the collection, expenditure, and accounting of public funds. The PAC also has the power to investigate any financial irregularities, regardless of where they occur in the government.

“To understand this vital role, it is quite auspicious that PAC members are trained to exercise their functions diligently, without any let or hindrance. It is my hope that this unveiling will retool you to this call to duty for the taxpayer. You cannot afford to fail.

“In conclusion, the work of the PAC is complemented by the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation. It is in this light that the Auditor General’s Office needs to be occupied. The appointment should be in place because it is a requirement of the Constitution.

“I am confident that the PAC will be vital in helping the 10th Assembly achieve its goals of ensuring transparency, accountability, and good governance in Nigeria,” he noted.

While noting that oAuGF cannot be headed by an official in an acting capacity, the Speaker called on President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to appoint a substantive AGF without further delay.

The Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of Economy, Mr. Wale Edun who was represented by the Director of Economic Research & Management, Mrs. Ogbonna Gem affirmed that: “We are all partners in progress working to see that corruption is curbed in the country.”

In his presentation, the acting Auditor General of the Federation, Dr. Onwudili Ogochukwu who averred that it’s a new dawn for the oAGF, urged the Committee to “match the legislative agenda of the 10th Assembly with financial oversight, scrutiny and accountability which Public Accounts Committee stands for.

“You will agree with me that the necessity and significance of this gathering is explicit enough. More than ever before, the elected legislators need to work in harmony and in the best interest of the Committee with a common vision, a common mission, and, of course, a common passion. This has become imperative if we are to meet the immense responsibilities and functions of the Public Accounts Committee that lie on our shoulders as Honourable Members.

“Honourable Members, setting new standards in Public Accounts requires a holistic collaboration with the Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation. In light of this, my Office is promising a harmonious working relationship with the 10“ Assembly.

“Overall, Honourable Members, the ‘Renewed Hope’ of the present administration can be sustained if we do not relent in our efforts to fight corruption. This, I believe will be thoroughly deliberated upon in the course of this workshop.

“Once again, congratulations on the inauguration of the Public Accounts Committee. May your endeavour lead to a more transparent, accountable, and prosperous future for our nation. | look forward to witnessing the positive impact of your work.”

In his remarks, ADSC Chief Executive Officer, Ambassador Victor Walsh Oluwafemi, lauded the continued collaboration in the areas of delivery of learning & development programs, evidence-based research solutions, legislative drafting, and reputation management amongst others.

While noting that members of the Public Accounts Committee have a critical role to play in safeguarding the existential principles of fiscal responsibility and good governance for the common good of all.

“Today’s engagement reflects the importance of PAC-affirmed commitment to help build a better Nigeria, as well as the national yearning to inspire thoughts and actions to redefine fiscal responsibility and oversight function. We believe that with the proper human capacity development, coaching, guidance, and resources, PAC will fulfill its crucial mandate in safeguarding public finances and ensuring the appropriate utilization of public resources in line with national development and progress.

“In this one-day leadership capacity development, we will explore and cross-examine various aspects of strategic leadership, management of public finance and oversight responsibilities, strategic decision-making, and leadership in crisis management. Our goal is to equip members with the knowledge, skills, attributes, and tools necessary to excel in their roles as PAC members and to be effective public stewards in managing public resources.”