Udora Orizu in Abuja
The House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts yesterday directed the Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, to furnish it with details of releases of multilateral loan of $36.1 million and grant of $1.5 million claimed to have been given to the Office of Auditor General of the Federation (OAuGF) by development partners.
This is as the lawmakers resolved to summon the Head of Service of the Federation (HoSF), Folashade Yemi-Esan; the Federal Character Commission and Federal Civil Service Commission to determine whether the employment waiver granted to the Auditor General elapsed in January.
The committee reached these resolutions when the Director-General of Budget Office, Ben Akabueze, appeared before it to explain while the OAuGF has been grossly under-funded despite its critical role in ensuring accountability.
The committee also adopted a motion of privilege raised by the Deputy Chairman, Abdulkadir Abdullahi (PDP-Bauchi), to bring to the attention of the House Speaker, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, abusive words used by Akabueze in a letter to the committee.
While responding, Akabueze faulted the notion that the OAuGF was grossly underfunded, insisting that there has been a steady increase in budgetary allocation to the OAuGF for the past three years.
He asserted that if the allocation to the OAuGF over the years has been inadequate, then the National Assembly is also culpable.
The DG Budget told the lawmakers that the office of the Auditor-General received substantial resources from development partners, which included $36.1 million multilateral loan and grant of $1.5 million from the World Bank.
He said: “If you look at the trajectory of allocations to Auditor-General since 2017, I think it is fair to say that it has been upward. In 2017, it was N2. 738 billion; in 2018, it was N3. 228 billion; in 2019, it was N3. 149 billion; in 2020, it was N4.128 billion, and in the draft for 2021 budget, it is N4.671 billion.
“To allege deliberate underfunding is simply to say the least…that is not correct. It is also important to note that the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning does not have the final say on the budget. Because budget proposal is presented at FEC and is debated in council, and what eventually emerges is owned by the FEC and most specifically by the president, who then lays it before the National Assembly.
‘’Indeed, with respect to the office of the Auditor-General, between 2015 and 2019, on two occasions, the National Assembly had varied the executive proposal-one occasion in 2015, to reduce the executive proposal for overhead, and in 2018 to increase the executive proposal for overhead. So, to then level a personal allegation against the DG Budget of deliberately underfunding the office of the Auditor-General again, in my opinion, does not reflect the fact. I also brought to your attention the fact that I am not sure you were aware of it because it was not cited, which is that the office of the Auditor-General of the Federation receives substantial resources from development partners.
‘’And I cite here one of those programmes that is currently active-Fiscal Governance and Institutions Project (FGIP). Under the FGIP, there is $36.1million of a multilateral loan which is part of the national borrowing plan and it is available to the office of the Auditor-General to use to advance its work. Under that same programme, the office is entitled to a grant of $1.5million from the World Bank. I’m just citing one source. These are the additional resources taken into account by the Budget Office when we proposed budgetary allocations to the OAGF.”
On the approval from his office being a prerequisite requirement to granting approval for agencies to hire personnel, he said: “There’s a process. The approval from my office is the last leg in the process. But before my office issues an approval, you have to produce the other approvals. The waiver from the head of service and the valid waiver from federal character commission, those are part of the documents you submit to the Budget Office for consideration. I’m saying that those documents are not before us, because they are not available, so we cannot act.’’
In his response, Chairman of the committee, Hon. Wole Oke, said the representation of the Auditor-General countered the assertion of the DG Budget Office.
He, thereby, ruled that the Auditor-General and DG Budget Office should avail the committee with the details of concessional loans taken for the utilisation of the office of the Auditor-General of the Federation and the agreement.
According to him, ‘’The DG has told this committee that there’s a sum of $36.1 million available for the Auditor-General to utilise. We want the details of the releases made to Auditor-General as claimed by you-that’s the $36.1 million and then the bank statements-those are the documents we were looking for on this matter.’’