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National Assembly passes Federal Audit Bill after 67 years

Finally, the Senate on Wednesday passed the Federal Audit Bill, 67 years after it was enacted in Nigeria.

The Senate concurred with the House of Representatives, which had earlier passed the proposed legislation.

The bill, which will soon be presented to President Muhammadu Buhari, prescribes two years jail term for an accounting officer of Federal Government office or court who fails 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.

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 the bill would provide the platform to fight corruption in the country effectively if it is signed into law.

Urhoghide said: “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 Ministries, Departments 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.

“It 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, there are 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 office of the Auditor General for the Federation had over 3,000 workforce, but reduced to 1200 staff now.

“The bill was passed by the 8th National Assembly, but President 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 believe that he was not properly briefed, hence he withheld assent then.

“The 9th Assembly believes 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 is 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 years imprisonment or a fine of N5 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 N20 million.

“The house recommended N10 million, but we disagreed.”



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