The Senate has passed the Federal Audit Bill on Wednesday, 67 years after it was enacted in Nigeria.
The bill which will soon be presented to President Muhammadu Buhari prescribed two years jail term for an accounting officer of Federal government office or court who fails to submit statement of account to submit a financial statement to the Accountant General not later than 90 days following the end of financial year.
The bill sought to repeal the audit ordinance , 1956 and enact the Federal Audit Service Act, 2023 to establish the Federal Audit Service, Federal Audit Board and provided additional powers and functions to the Auditor-general of the Federation.
The Senate concurred with the House of Representatives which had earlier passed the proposed legislation.
Senate Leader, 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, told journalists that would provide platform to fight corruption in the country effectively if it is signed into law.
The Bill was passed in the 8th Senate. It seeks to strengthen the office of the Auditor General for the Federation.
The Office 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 perculiar 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.
The Country needs a proper workforce to be able to do that.
The office of the Auditor General for the Federation 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 N20m, the house recommended N10m but we disagreed.
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