The Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation is a constitutional body and the Supreme Audit Institution of Nigeria.

The Auditor-General for the Federation is a professional and non-partisan position in Nigerian Government who shall be appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Federal Civil Service Commission subject to the confirmation of the Senate as provided for in Section 86(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended). The essence of the office is to support the National Assembly in meeting its constitutional responsibilities of informed oversights, policy and funding decisions, also to help improve the performance and accountability of the Federal Government for the Nigerian people. These responsibilities are performed through examining of the use of public funds and evaluation of Federal programs and policies and commitment to good governance using its core values of transparency, accountability, integrity, and professionalism.

The Office exists to audit the nation’s accounts in the most professional and transparent manner, ensuring value for money in government financial activities for the benefit of the Nigerian people, and to be a foremost audit institution, applying best professional practices towards fostering good governance and providing leadership to other Public Sector Audit Institutions in the country and beyond.

As established by the constitution, the Office has been empowered to play a major role in the fight against corruption; a government that has a top agenda of fighting corruption to a standstill needs the Office to function optimally. The Auditor-General for the Federation is a person Constitutionally saddled with the responsibility of auditing and reporting on the accounts of of the Federation. This task can only be performed professionally with high skill, competence, experience and integrity. This person should have no political affiliation as his job has been designed to partly check and report on political appointees and politicians themselves, not subjecting to the direction or control of any other authority or person (section 85{6}). This person the Constitution requires to be daring and possesses towering integrity.

Therefore such a position should not be subject to any political process. Making this position open to advertisement will only expose the process to all manner of persons which may increase the risk of selecting a person through godfatherism and will result in compromise, conflict of interest and bias in the discharge of this professional duty especially when their cronies are being audited, investigated or reported on.

Leadership positions such as this require one who is highly skilled, experienced and has climbed through the rungs of the ladder. The person should appreciate the Office and understand the nitty gritty of government auditing, this will guarantee that with such a person at the helm of affairs, there will be confidence that key mandates, duties and responsibilities under his watch shall be timeously delivered in a seamless and professional manner.

Perhaps, the tremendous successes recorded when Auditors-General for the Federation were appointed from among the most senior Directors of Audit within the Office are verifiable from the living Auditors-General Emeritus including: Mr.J. C. Asugha (1st Jan 1994-28th November 1998); Mr Pius N. Akubueze (November 1998-31st December 2001); Mr J.O.Ajiboye (15th Jan 2002-15th July2002); Mr Vincent S.C Azie (13th August 2002-13th February 2003); Mr J.O. Ajiboye (February 2003-December 2006); Mrs B.F. Oyelowo (December 2006-May 2007); Mr O.R.Ejenavi (May 2007-May 2009); Mr Gabriel Ogunsina (19th May 2009-November 2009, then reverted to the rank of Director of Audit, continued to run the affairs of the Office till 9th June 2010). This was undoubtedly as a result of the exposure and experience they garnered by growing through the ranks in the Office. In line with international best practice, the Kenyan Government in July, 2020 just appointed Nancy Gathungu, an insider in the Kenya’s National Audit Office as Kenya’s Auditor-general to be guided by independence, credibility, relevance and accountability. Also, the incumbent South African Auditor-General- Thembekile Kimi Makwetu was appointed as an insider having being Deputy Auditor-General (equivalent of ranking Director of Audit in Nigeria) in the same Office, just to mention but a few.

Recently, President Muhammadu Buhari demonstrated his stance for professionalism and promoting hard work when he appointed Mohammed Umar, an insider, as the new Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). This gesture definitely will encourage every staff member of the commission to work assiduously knowing that some day they could be appointed head the agency.

Unfortunately, since the year 2010 when an outsider was appointed to pilot the affairs of the nation’s auditing house, politicians have highjacked the Office and eroded the achievements recorded by past Auditors-General for the Federation making it look like a mere post-office where courier services are rendered.

Indeed, it’s pathetic and shameful that the Office of the Auditor-General for Federation lost its focus in the discharge of its core functions (production of timely annual reports and comments on audited accounts of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of Government despite perceived frauds that is taking place in these places. For instance, the mind-boggling frauds that is been revealed and investigated by the National Assembly should have been revealed or discovered by the Office of the Auditor-General if not for the politicization of the office.

The Auditor-General for the Federation should not be appointed based on political patronage but one who grows through the ranks with expertise and passionate about transparency. The Auditor-General suppose to make the work of the anticorruption agencies – EFCC and ICPC easier by exposing frauds in MDAs and other governments contracts via its reports unfortunately it’s not the so.

Since the fight against corruption and promoting transparency in governance is one of the key mandates of President Buhari’s administration, there is the need for Mr President to reposition the agency to enable it operates in line with its mandate as a fact-digger. This could only be achieve if the President reversed the trend and appoint a qualified and experienced person within the system.

As the nation gears up for the recruitment of yet another Auditor -General for the Federation, it is about time that attention is paid to professionalism, experience, knowledge and understanding of the workings of the Office. In this regard therefore, consideration must be given to the highly skilled and largely qualified personnel within the Office who over the years have been disadvantaged in the race for the head of the Office as most of them are core civil servants without godfathers to pull the strings in their favor. The nation must rise up to reject and desist from the penchant of recruiting externally to fill this position, while the Office boasts of eminently qualified and experienced personnel who can do the job fearlessly and boldly without caring whose ox is gored. This penchant of external recruitment has resulted to major setbacks in achieving key deliverables to the nation due to the under listed;

• An external appointee has limited understanding of the Office

• There is a Higher risk of choosing the wrong candidate as there will be godfathers to influence the outcome

• It is going to be Time consuming and the nation does not have such luxury

• Internal disputes with existing employees

• Longer adjustment and orientation time

• Choosing timid individual with eroded independence and impaired loyalty

• Lowering the bar of efficiency and effectiveness

• lack of cohesion and synergy among management and staff

• introduction of policies without harmony and buy-ins from management and staff there by resulting in failure and discontinuance at his/her exit resulting in stagnation and wastage of resources

The Office should remain professional and not politicized where politicians are given the chance to influence who checks and investigates their impropriety, thereby sacrificing objectivity, merit, experience, professionalism, carrier growth and progression on the altar of mundane considerations.

In choosing the next Auditor-General for the Federation, the above should be subjected to objective and careful consideration by rightfully picking from within in accordance with the Constitution so as to deliver its core functions of auditing and reporting professionally with integrity on government establishments in the most accountable and transparent manner, plugging all revenue leakages, ensuring the effective management of scarce resources and becoming a major stakeholder in the fight against corruption and malpractices for the betterment of all Nigerians

From the forgoing, it is imperative that in order to promote professionalism in delivering on the duties and responsibilities of the Office and boosting staff morale, it’s important to pick an internal, experienced and most senior Director of Audit in the Office (as has been the practice in the past). This will tremendously motivate the staff to put in their best and be hopeful of reaching the zenith of their career for the benefit of Nigeria and Nigerians as against appointing external candidates who do not possess the requisite experience and exposure but for political affiliations and godfatherism.

Adekoya Isyaka is a public analyst, he wrote from lagos, Nigeria

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