The Senate has warned heads of Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs) queried by the Auditor-General of the Federation in his 2015 report to desist from sending proxies to represent them.
This followed the failure of some the indicted agencies to appear before the Senate Committee on Public Accounts to clear the queries against them.
Chairman, Senate Committee on Public Accounts, Senator Matthew Urhoghide gave the charge during a public hearing on the 2015 Auditor-General’s report, in Abuja today Tuesday.
Senator Urhoghide said that while the Committee is committed to transparency, fairness and accountability, it would not fail to make damnatory recommendations against heads of agencies that refused to appear in person before the Committee to answer to queries raised against them.
He said that the committee is looking into all extant rules, including the Public Procurement Act, Fiscal Responsibility Act, financial regulations and all other laws that have to do with public expenditure in considering the queries raised against some of the agencies.
Some of the agencies invited by the Senate to Tuesday’s public hearing were: The Auditor-General of the Federation, Accountant-General of the Federation, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA).
were the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), National Bureau of Statistics (NBS),
Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Debt Management Office (DMO),
National Pension Commission (PenCom), Pension Transitional Arrangement
Directorate (PTAD), Head of Service of the Federation, and the
Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
While the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Comptroller-General of the NCS and PenCom sent representatives, DPR, NBS, HoS, FIRS, INEC and DMO had no representatives.
Only the Executive Secretary of PTAD, Dr. Chioma Ejikeme, was at the hearing in person.
“I want you to be as serious as possible and for those agencies talking about representation, it is not going to be allowed.
“So you go back and tell your principals, we are going to subordinate you to oath and anything you tell us.
“Tomorrow, if anybody takes us to court, we are going to have proper justification and evidence to say yes, you came to the National Assembly and this is what you said.
“So if you are going to answer this queries through proxies, it is unacceptable. You must tell your heads who are not here that there are consequences that have been earmarked in the financial regulations, if you spend money without authorisation, the regulation says you should be removed from office.
“That is what we are going to tell the President of this country, the executive must comply that you will be removed from office.
“Nobody is going to shave your hair while you are out there. Therefore if you send somebody to come and tell us, it is unacceptable, even if you do not appear, it only means that you have accepted the guilt and we are right about you.” Urhoghide said
He further affirmed that the Senate is in possession of a backlog of the Auditor-General’s report but that it has decided to start by considering that of 2015.
“These reports ought to have been considered but for certain exigencies, the Senate has not been able to consider these reports.
“The reports of 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, are already in arrears and the procedure is that after getting the audited reports from MDAs, including foreign missions and courts, in accordance with the provisions of Section 85 of our Constitution, these reports are sent to the National Assembly through the Public Accounts Committee of both Houses.
“When it is sent and there are queries that are raised, we call you the agencies that we describe as errant agencies.
“The Auditor-General that has brought this to us has to sit down and we call you, just like we have sent to some of you through our correspondence to explain your part from the queries that have been raised by the auditor-general.
“Many of you did not find it expedient to reply to our letters to you but we now said, whether you reply or not, a day like this must come when the Auditor-General and you will be here before the final verdict will be passed by the Senate.
“We are going to subject all of you through the same procedure. We want to ensure fair hearing that is why we have called you here on issues that borders on the expenditure of public funds.
“It is our duty to ensure accountability and transparency in the spending of public funds. What was done in 2015, even though some of you were not heads of the agencies, you are coming to account for it.
“As the Chairman of this Committee, I am not going to subordinate myself to any other interrogation or excuse by any agency of the government. What has to be done has to be done here.
“This Senate is determined to clear all the backlogs of all the auditor-general’s reports that we have gotten since 2015.
“We have given ourselves timelines to finish 2015 and move to 2016. By the time you clear yourself from 2015 and we give you a certificate of discharge, we will subordinate you to 2016 depending on the query.” He added