By Dr. Alagbonsi Abdullateef
Kwara State is not a lawless state, and the governance (especially on spending of public fund) in the state is guided by relevant laws. The Office of the Auditor-General in Kwara State was established by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (CFRN) and Kwara State Public Audit Law No 4 of 2021. The office is empowered to be independent. The Auditor-General must have sworn to an oath pledging to perform the duties of his/her office honestly and impartially, abide by laws of the state, and uphold the CFRN. Section 7 of the Law empowers the Auditor-General to be accorded full and unencumbered independence in the execution of his duties and the exercise of his constitutional powers, and he/she shall not be subject to the control or direction of any other authority or person. Whether he uses this legally-donated power or not will reflect in the outputs from his/her office, including Audit reports.
Section 13 of the Law states that if the Auditor-General detects irregularities in the receipts, custody, or expenditure of public monies (……), the Auditor-General is obligated to bring such matter to the simultaneous attention of the House of Assembly, Accountant-General of Kwara State and Accounting Officer of the affected Ministry, Department and Agency (MDA). The Accountant-General is mandated by the Law to respond formally to the observation and queries received from the Auditor-General within 15 days while the Accounting Officer of the MDA must reply within 7 days of receiving such query. The response of the Auditor-General to the statement of ENetSuD reflects that he is either not meticulous in the discharge of his duty, or he deliberately misled the public to cover-up the violation of financial regulation by the Governor’s Office, Government House and 8 other MDAs, which he alleged by himself. He must have audited the State’s 2020 account between April to June 2021, and the queries raised by him must have been (un)satisfactorily answered within that period. How he reported missing receipts of transaction on 30th September 2021 and later vindicated all these offices in another press release on the same day gives room for a lot of suspicion. It is either his officially-published audit report compressed to Citizens Accountability Report (CAR) is not reliable, true and sincere, or his press statement to reply ENetSuD is a cover-up. The Kwara State House of Assembly (KWHA) must investigate this matter further and inform the public about its findings.
Within the period of 3 months after 31st December, Accountant General is mandated by the Law to present the financial statement and annual account of the state to the Auditor-General, which may be extended for a maximum of 30 days on special occasion. It also mandates the Auditor-General to submit his audit report to the State House of Assembly within ninety (90) days of receiving Accountant General financial statement and annual account of Kwara State Government (KWSG), which may also be extended for a maximum of 30 days on special occasion. The Assembly will then cause the report to be considered by its Committee responsible for Public Account. Today is 1st October, 2021. Has the Auditor General submitted his annual Audit report to the Speaker of the KWHA? The answer is YES. My discussion with a member of the Public Account Committee of the House confirms this assertion, as he authoritatively said that his Committee has received the audit report towards the end of September 2021. The delay can be overlooked.
Beyond the requirement for the World Bank Assisted State Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability Program for Result (SFTASPforR) grant, the publication of the Annual Audit report of the State is mandatory as a matter of right of Kwarans. Section 16(6) of the Audit Law qualifies the Audit report as a public document and mandates the Auditor-General to publish the report and make it accessible to members of the public after tabling it before the KWHA. The law neither recognizes publishing of an interim report nor does it envisage the publishing of a misleading audit report by the Office of the Auditor-General. The claim of the State Auditor-General that most, if not all, of the observed unattached receipts, have since been provided by the affected MDAs and issues related thereto also resolved and will be reflected in the final reports of the State Auditor-General is misleading, indicting, inconsequential and a show of failure to exercise diligent care in carrying out the audit assignment on his part as an Auditor of the State. Which other future report is the state Auditor-General referring to when the report has already been submitted to the KWHA and also published as a public document?
Assuming without conceding that the missing receipts were provided to him by the relevant MDAs during his audit exercise, why did he not disclose same in his published Audit report (from which CAR was extracted), which must have been final report having signed it? Moreover, audit queries that have already been resolved are not expected to be captured (as subsisting query) in the final audit report signed and published. Why did he retain those queries in his CAR report published on 30th September 2021 if truly those receipts had been provided to him and the issues were laid to rest as controversially posited in his rejoinder to ENetSuD’s statement? In the Audit report he signed on 29th June, 2021, the Auditor General made an opinion that the Financial Statement of KWSG for the year ended 31st December, 2020 showed a true and fair view of the State of Affairs on material grounds (without referring to the fundamental issues of receipt), the cash flow and the financial position available as at that date. He also said that the KWSG has consistently complied with the extant guidelines and provisions stipulated by International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS). Contrarily, he came out to say on 30th September, 2021 in the CAR that 592 audit queries were raised for ten MDAs on expenditures amounting to 6.2 billion naira (re-calculated by ENetSuD). He concluded that the presentation of vouchers for those expenditures without the receipts is contrary to section 603 of the Financial Regulations. Which one should we believe? Is the financial regulation, which he alleged the KWSG and the MDAs to have violated, not part of the extant provisions that he earlier said they complied with? Is the audit report of Kwara State Auditor General consistent and reliable?
Finally, the KWHA is urged to diligently perform its constitutional duty and do a serious investigation into the 2020 Audit report of Kwara State submitted to it by the Auditor General. The Assembly is also urged to publish its findings for public information and knowledge.
• Dr. Alagbonsi Abdullateef is the Coordinator of ENetSuD. He can be reached via email@example.com