By Gift Chapi Odekina
The House of Representatives has summoned four cabinet Minister to appear before its House Committee on Public Account to answer questions on why agencies under them should not be sanctioned for violating extant laws on submission of audited accounts to the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation.
The House also placed the Nigeria Institute for International Affairs, Lagos, Nigeria Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency, the Nigeria investment Promotion Council, Radiographers Registration Board, Inter-Country Centre for Oral Health, Root Crop Research Institute, Umudike, Nigeria Natural Medicine Agency and the Lake Chad Research institute under status enquiry.
The agencies are to reappear before the House committee with their immediate past management team, the annul budget and their audited account covering the period under investigation.
The House is investigating what it described as “deliberate and reckless refusal by non treasury and partially funded agencies to render their audited accounts covering the period from 2014 to 2018.
The Ministers summoned by the House Committee are Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, Minister of Agriculture, Alhaji Sabo Nanono, Minister of Trade and Investment, Otunba Niyi Adebayo and Minister of State for Transportation, Senator Gbemisola Saraki.
Senator Saraki is to appear along aide the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry over the refusal of the Director General of the Nigeria Maritime and Safety Administration (NIMASA) to appear before the Committee to explain why it has failed to submit the audited report since 2014 to the Auditor General.
The Committee Chairman said the Management of NIMASAhas refused to make an appearance before the Committee, while also frowning at the failure of the Federal Inland Revenue Service to submit up to date audited accounts to the appropriate quarters.
The Minister of Agriculture on his part is to appear along aside all agencies inn the Ministry to explain the delay in constituting boards for the agencies which many them said was responsible for the non submission of their audited accounts.
Chairman of the Committee, Rep Oluwole Oke frown at the refusal of the agencies to abide by the provisions of the law, saying it was not acceptable that for eight years, the Nigeria Institute for International Affairs failed to submit its audited account as required by law.
The agency, according to the Office of the Auditor General last submitted its audited accounts in 2010, a situation, Rep. Oke said was very embarrassing, saying, “you are the gateway to Nigeria. When you go out there what do you tell your colleagues. For an agency like this, it is very embarrassing.”
Director General of the Inter-Country for Oral Health on its part last told the Committee that it could not submit its audited report because of the absence of a board to approve the audited reports since the last one was submitted in 2006.
He said since the board was yet to be constituted, all the audited report are submitted to the Minister for approval.
However, the Nigeria Investment Promotion Council disagreed with the Office of the Auditor General on the submission of its audited reports, saying it has evidence that all reports up to 2017 have been submitted, but returned by the Auditor General.
Director General of the agency, Yewande Sadiku told the committee that when she assumed office in 2016, she discovered that the agency had not been audited since 2013 and immediately set in motion machineries to carry out the audit which she said took a while to complete.
She explained that the audited report was submitted via a letter dated September 2019, but was returned by the Auditor General who demanded that a soft copy of the report must accompany the submission.
The committee was however no impressed by fact that the reports were submitted late and demanded that all former Chief Executive of the agency should appear along side the Supervising Minister.
Oke warned the management of NIMASA led by a former member of the House, Dakuku Peterside to stop undermining the House, saying this will be the last time the House will be inviting them to appear, failure which, the Committee will be forced to recommend appropriate sanction against them.
He said when agencies of government fail to appear before the constitutional committee, it means that they have something to hide and such agency will face the appropriate sanction.
Rep. Oke however commended the management of Galaxy backbone for being the only agency that was up to date in submitting its audited account to the Auditor General’s office, saying “even though we are yet to go through the report, the fact that they are up to date with their report is commendable.”
He said the House wants to know what has happened in the past and why what happened was allowed to happen, saying “we cannot continue to run the nation like this. We have seen people going to jail for just N100,000. So, we wont allow this to continue”.
The Public Account Committee in both the Senate and the House of Representatives is the only committee created by the constitution to investigate audit queries from the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation.