Buhari Earmarks $700m to Improve Governance at State Levels

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Seeks auditors’ cooperation to fight corruption

James Emejo and Oghenevwede Ohwovoriole in Abuja

President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday disclosed that the federal government would release $700 million to states to assist in improving governance and public finance management.

Speaking at the annual conference of Auditors-General of Nigeria with the theme: ‘Nigeria’s Drive Towards the Achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): The Strategic Roles of Auditors-General’, he said the decision became necessary in order to deepen the fight against corruption as well as enthrone transparency and accountability in the public sector.

According to the president, “At the state level, several measures had been introduced to achieve certain minimum improvements in governance and public financial management.

These, according to him, include the State Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability program (SFTAS), in which $700 million will be made available as grants to states.

He said: “Similarly, $50 million in technical assistance will be made available to key agencies with the states to build capacity. At the inception of this administration, three cardinal goals were set-security, fight against corruption and revamping of the economy. Three and a half years down the line, I am pleased to report that tremendous achievements have been recorded in all three areas.

“I must state however, that the desired level in the fight against corruption is yet to be attained.”

Represented by the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (HoSF), Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita, Buhari said his administration had introduced several reform initiatives in the financial management sector to help stem the tide of corruption and
waste.

He said: “These initiatives include the Treasury Single Account (TSA) which has tremendously reduced leakages in the system. Similarly, it has introduced the Presidential Initiative of Continuous Audit (PICA). PICA has the mandate to validate controls, assess risks, prone personnel costs, ensure compliance with public financial management reforms, detect errors and make recommendations to management for necessary actions.

“Recently, I approved several sweeping reforms in the public finance sector so as to further reduce and drive up revenue. These reforms include performance monitoring that would set financial indicators and targets for revenue generating government-owned enterprises.

“New measures for expenditure controls, budgeting and financial reporting requirements, as well as financial oversight have also been set.

“Henceforth, the accounts of government-owned enterprises shall be audited within four months after the end of each financial year.

“The role of Auditors-General to the success of these new reforms can therefore not be overemphasised.

“The SDGs adopted by all United Nations member states are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.”

The president, therefore, tasked the Auditors-General to take their roles seriously, given that it has a “direct impact on our development as a country and what we make from our limited resources.”

He further charged them to be vigilant, independent and live above politics.

However, the Auditor-General for the Federation (AuGF), Mr. Anthony Ayine, said Nigerians must work together in order to successfully implement the SDGs.

He noted that the challenge of development and improving the well-being of Nigerians was not for the federal government alone, adding that the audit community has a strategic role to play.

Ayine said: “Through audits, Supreme Audit Institutions (SAls) have the opportunity to stimulate the government to have more policy coherence among its actions. It is the duty of the SAI community to help watch over SDGs implementation and policy integration.

“Our audits could look at specific programmes that target the poor and vulnerable groups to assess how they work or they could look at the whole government to evaluate whether these issues are incorporated into a range of government policies.”