The Chairman, Public Accounts Committee of the House of Representatives, Honourable Kingsley Chinda, has emphasised the need for ministries, departments and agencies of government to embrace accountability and integrity in their mandate to serve the people, saying that â€œas public servants we have no choice than to be accountable and transparent in managing public fundsâ€œ.
Hon. Chinda made this known at Hotel Presidential in Port- Harcourt during the Port-Harcourt leg of the ongoing National Workshop on Audit Queries, Responses and Resolutions: â€œThe ABC of Audit Queries and Defence before Public Account Committee of the House of Representatives, organised with the 8th Assembly, Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in collaboration with the Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation (OAuGF) and Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN).
Chinda who was the keynote speaker at the event expressed delight at the Port Harcourt programme, saying his experience at PAC hearing and the way the MDAs react whenever they are invited to defend their audit queries, as if they are being persecuted, underscores the importance the workshop.
Chinda who is representing Obio/Akpor Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, said that PAC, office for the Auditor General of the Federation and MDAs are all partners in progress and that MDAs should not always carry the toga of defense as if they are being persecuted, each time they are invited by the PAC to respond to queries regarding their finances, saying the invitation is just to set the records straight.
While appreciating the organisation of the programme, Chinda explained that the intervention of PAC is in the best interest of the MDAs and the country at large as the whole idea is to make public spending more transparent and make everyone responsible as well as hold it as a duty to be accountable to the public, saying â€œPAC, office of the Auditor General of the Federation and MDAs are all partners in progressâ€.
The lawmaker however enumerated some of the challenges of the committee to include â€œdumping of manual and huge volume of documents some few days before hearing on PAC by the MDAs, failure of Chief Accounting Officers (CAOs) of the MDAs to appear before the committee, improper documentation, including missing vouchers and tax receipts, lack of articulation on the part of CAOs and failures of some MDAs to submit audited financial report to the Accountant General of the Federationâ€ amongst others.
He however said his committee is bracing up to the challenges with the introduction, in the next couple of months, of dedicated website where MDAs can log-on and download their audit queries and upload their responses as well, such that audit defense would be mechanised as â€œpen and paper technology will be consigned to national archivesâ€.
On his part, the Technical Consultant to the Public Accounts Committee, House of Representatives, and a past Chairman of ICAN, Lagos Mainland, Dr. Greg Ezeilo, emphasised the importance of the programme as a platform to educate the MDAs on the rudiments of audit queries and defence before the Public Accounts Committee.
Greg who was the lead organiser of the programme, explained that over the past decades, resolving audit queries with MDAs either by the office of the Auditor General for the Federation or Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly has been greatly controverted largely due to perception gaps on the part of the MDAs.
According to him: â€œIn a large proportion of the audit cases by the OAuGF, critical audit issues remain unresolved due to the inability of the MDAs to provide responses to critical audit queries, consequently leading to non-resolution of audit issues associated with the MDAs, and the situation is not too different with PAC whose invitations to MDAs to respond to audit queries are either met with disdain or the Chief Accounting Officers delegating junior officers to such meetings contrary to the provisions of the law. So this workshop is to eliminate some of these challenges as the workshop provides the required knowledge for MDAs to go about their activitiesâ€ he said.
Earlier in her welcome address, Mrs. Osakwe Blessing Ogo, who is the chairman of ICAN, Lagos mainland, said her experience at the PAC hearings a couple of times and the challenges many MDAs go through in defending their audits queries underscores the importance the workshop.