The intersection of person and system can trammel the dynamic of progress in the civil service. That is the case in the office of the Auditor-General of the Federation (AuGF) that did not submit the audit report for 2020. This violates the constitution and shows how the absence of one man can hold the law of the land hostage and cripple all activities connected with it.
According to section 85(5) of the 1999 constitution, “The Auditor-General shall, within 90 days of receipt of the Accountant-General’s financial statement, submit his reports under this section to each House of the National Assembly and each House shall cause the reports to be considered by a committee of the House of the National Assembly responsible for public accounts.”
It is dangerous such an incident can happen with regard to our finances as a nation, especially in a milieu where corruption festers and individuals can take liberties with our funds where there is no bureaucratic eye or moral authority to hold them to account.
According to a news report in The Nation, a festering clash of ambitions among directors who want to be the auditor-general has paralysed the ability of the acting auditor-general to submit the report. This is unacceptable. The substantive occupier of the position, Adolphus Aghughu, retired September 2022. He picked a director, Ogochukwu Onwudili, to act pending the appointment of a person as a substantive auditor-general.
Ordinarily, the acting auditor-general should have submitted the report. It is baffling that it has not happened. If Onwudili cannot submit the report, what is the essence of filling in for the appointee while the president announces the new person?
As an insider tells The Nation, “The battle for who becomes the auditor-general is intense as the government has thrown the seat open to all qualified directors in the federal civil service. So, those within are doing everything possible to be considered.”
It implies that persons can be more important than systems, and if a few persons with vaulting ambitions and centrifugal temperaments want to obstruct the smooth running of government, they can have their way. That this has happened is enough evidence that our civil service has serious deficiencies in its way of operation.
We are already in 2023 and we do not have the report of 2020. It implies a dilatory service and a lack of precision in how we look at our books. The constitution says within 90 days the auditor-general should send the report to the National Assembly. How does a 2020 report still remain in the hands of the investigators when a lot of financial activities had happened in 2021? It is hard to understand how the civil service allows itself such latitude of indulgence. The 2019 report, for instance, was submitted in 2022. We allow for the need for integrity of reporting and this calls for thorough work among the mammoth agencies of government. But this is their only duty, and they should exercise speed with precision in making sure that our money is spent with prudence and accountability. If it takes a year, it is understandable. But after that requires an overhaul of how it is done. The minutiae of reports may call for questions and repeated queries, but it should be done with deadlines and penalties.
But that is not the case with the 2020 audit. It is a personality clash, and the whole country suffers because a few people want to be the next AuGF.
We call on the president to look into this matter with urgency. It was an audit query that recently exposed the accountant-general of the federation. Who knows what is lurking in the 2020 report?