Absence of Auditor-General Threatens FG’s $29bn External Borrowing Plan

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By Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja

The federal government’s current move to secure $29 billion foreign loans may remain a pipe dream unless the government swiftly ensures the appointment of a substantive Auditor-General of the Federation (AuGF), THISDAY learnt at the weekend.

The threat posed by the development has been described as one of the many lapses hampering effective management of the economy by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.

Whereas the president had last Tuesday sought the National Assembly’s nod to pursue $29.9 billion external borrowing programme, some senators who reacted to the request at the weekend, said no external loan could be obtained unless the request was accompanied by a confirmation report from a substantive AuGF, which Nigeria doesn’t have at present.

The senators explained that internal donor agencies such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and African Development Bank (ADB) had set a rule authorising the attachment of confirmation report from a country’s substantive AuGF for a loan request before they could entertain such request.

Last Thursday, at a session between the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, and the Minister of Budget Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma; Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation, Senator Danjuma Goje, had doubted government’s preparedness to obtain the loan. “I just hope that the federal government will succeed in obtaining these loans with the situation on ground,” Goje stated.

Responding, Adeosun expressed confidence on the possibility of obtaining the loan and only appealed to the senators to treat the request before them with dispatch.

Since May 25 when the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), in a memo dated May 25 and signed by Mohammed Bukar, Permanent Secretary (General Services) in the Office of the SGF, ordered the immediate past AuGF, Samuel Ukura, to proceed on terminal leave, the government has failed to replace him.

Ukura’s non-replacement is however, in contrast to the directive by the Office of the SGF on May 25 to the Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC),  to immediately commence the process of appointing Ukura’s substantive successor while Mrs. Florence Anyanwu was asked to take over the job in acting in capacity. However,  Anyanwu’s tenure in acting capacity is also said to have expired while Ukura’s successor has not been named.

The SGF, in the memo to FCSC in May, had directed the commission to appoint the most senior director as AuGF in acting capacity pending the appointment of a substantive Auditor-General within the next three months. It was this directive which threw up Anyanwu.

The memo stated in part: “That all relevant Directors (Audit) regardless of the year of promotion, be considered in the process of appointing a new Auditor-General in order to make the exercise more competitive and to attract more competent capable officers in the process.

“That the Commission should place internal and external advertisement to expand the field of selection to consider other qualified Auditors both within and outside the civil service.

“That a candidate for the post should possess a minimum of good Honours Degree and must be a qualified professional Accountant holding membership certificate of a reputable accountancy body recognised by law within and/or outside Nigeria.

“That the candidate possesses a minimum of 15 years post professional qualification experience, acquired in the public or private sector, at least 10 years of which must be in auditing. That the most senior Director be appointed in acting capacity at the expiration of the term of office of the current Auditor-General and must have at least a minimum of two years to retirement.”

However, five months after this directive, the appointment of the substantive AuGF has not been made, thus resulting in complaints by Senate Committee on Public Accounts  that presentations by the staff of the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation are poor and lack effective coordination.

Nevertheless, it was learnt that following the SGF’s directive to FCSC in May, the commission in July, shortlisted and forwarded the names of three candidates for the office to Buhari.

They were said to have been short-listed through  written and oral interviews.

The three shortlisted candidates were: Christopher Nyong, Nabasu Bako and Omoniyi Adeyeye.

It was further learnt that instead of taking a prompt action by selecting one of the candidates, Buhari opted to constitute a seven-man committee to determine the most suitable of them for the job.

It was also learnt that even though the seven-man committee had since submitted its report and recommendation to the president for approval and announcement, the president, for reasons known to him, has kept the report in the cooler.