The federal government has announced that it will distribute the total sum of N270 billion (or $750 million) to the 36 states of the federation to drive prudent public finance management in the country.
President Muhammadu Buhari, who was represented by the head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita, disclosed this at the Conference of Auditors-General in Nigeria yesterday in Abuja.
He said that, according to the plan, $700 million will be a grant to the states while $50 million will serve as technical assistance for capacity building to drive the process.
“Several measures have been introduced to ensure certain minimum improvement at the state level in governance and public financial management. These include the States’ Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability Programme (SFPAS) in which $700 million will be made available as grants to states.
“Similarly, the sum of $50 million in technical assistance will be made available to key agencies within the states to build capacity. Let no state be left behind as we move Nigeria to the next level,” said Oyo-Ita who represented President Muhammadu Buhari at the event.
The Head of Service also announced that, henceforth, the accounts of government-owned enterprises will be audited within four months after the end of each financial year.
She also stressed the key role to be played by the auditor-general towards the success of government reforms aimed at entrenching accountability in governance.
“Recently, I approved several sweeping reforms in the public finance sector so as to further reduce risks and drive revenue. These reforms include performance monitoring that will 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 put in place,” she said.
LEADERSHIP recalls that in 2017, President Buhari launched a five-year strategic plan for the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation, and as a follow up, additional funds were released for the implementation of the development plan.
The president affirmed that government would continue to provide the required support in recognition of the critical role auditors play in government.
But speaking yesterday at the conference of the auditors, tagged “Nigeria’s Drive Towards the Achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): the Strategic Roles of Auditors-General,” the president said the strategic plan would deepen the fight against corruption.
Buhari acknowledged that there are still gaps to be closed, especially in the area of external auditing, and challenged the participants who thronged the International Conference Centre, Abuja, venue of the event, to think about how progress should be measured.
He said independent evaluation by auditors of the success or otherwise of the implementation of SDGs, especially in the management of looted funds, the gains derived from proper implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA), the impact achieved through the N-power Programme, the lives that have been improved through the Social Safety Net, conditional cash transfers and the school feeding programme and the visible progress with roads and rail infrastructure across the country are all necessary ingredients for improvement.
“Your constitutional responsibility to stop corruption even before it happens, is very unique, especially with the independence that it guarantees. I urge you to take this role seriously as it has direct impact on our development as a nation and what we make from our limited resources,” he stated.
In his welcome remarks, the auditor-general of the federation (AuGF), Anthony Mkpe-Ayine, said for Nigeria to succeed in the successful implementation of SDGs, the audit community in Nigeria has a strategic role to play.
“It is the duty of the Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) Community to help watch over SDGs implementation and policy integration,” he said, adding that audits could look at specific programmes that target the poor and vulnerable groups to evaluate whether these issues are incorporated into the range of government policies.
The conference is expected to produce a roadmap for effective auditing and to assess the progress achieved with the money that has been appropriated and spent so far, with a focus on possible achievements if more money is spent.
Chairman of the Auditors’ Forum, Alhaji Abdul Usman Aliu, said the forum would help the members to chart a better way forward for the country. He challenged auditors to make a difference in their states and agencies of operation.
“I want the forum to continue so that we educate ourselves on our roles as auditors,” he said.
On his part, the chairman, House Committee on Public Accounts. Kingsley Chimda, pointed out that a good audit system can help reduce the corruption responsible for the non- achievement of the SDGs,.
He expressed hope that the president would assent to the Audit Bill already passed by the lawmakers just as he called on the auditors to come up with a roadmap for a proper auditing system.