Former president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), Ismaila Muhammadu Zakari, has urged the National Assembly to consider a constitutional amendment that would require the president to present the annual audited accounts before the National Assembly. Zakari’s proposal mirrors the process of seeking legislative approval for the budget, aiming to enhance transparency and fiscal accountability.
Speaking at the Audit Reporting Workshop organised by the non-profit NGO FrontFoot Media Initiative on October 26, 2023, Zakari emphasized the importance of the annual audited accounts as a crucial component of budget management. He highlighted the existing constitutional mandate, which stipulates the preparation of these accounts by the Accountant General of the Federation within 90 days of the end of the accounting year. Subsequently, the Auditor-General verifies and forwards the accounts to the National Assembly.
Zakari’s call for a constitutional amendment aligns with the need to improve accountability in government financial operations, particularly concerning the absence of audited accounts since 2019. During this period, Nigeria also lacked an Auditor-General.
President Bola Tinubu has nominated Mr. Shaakaa Chira for the role of Auditor-General, pending confirmation by the National Assembly, potentially addressing this issue. The nomination process for the Auditor-General is conducted by the Senate Committee on Public Accounts, responsible for scrutinizing the nominee’s qualifications, experience, background, and potential conflicts of interest. This step is crucial to ensuring a capable and impartial national auditor.
The 2019 Federal Government Audit Report revealed various irregularities and shortcomings, including unapproved payments exceeding N200 billion, unaccounted-for funds of over N100 billion, and weak internal controls hindering fraud prevention and detection.
Zakari’s proposal found support from financial expert Mr. Tilewa Adebajo, CEO of The CFG Advisory, who stressed the significance of the audit report. Adebajo highlighted that while the budget represents a projection, the audited account reflects fiscal reality, stating, “The budget is only a projection. The audited account is the reality.”
The report also emphasised the need to enhance revenue collection, reduce expenditure on non-essential items, and develop a comprehensive debt management strategy to ensure fiscal sustainability. This call for a constitutional amendment aims to establish a mandatory process for the presentation of the federation’s audited accounts before the National Assembly, similar to the annual national budget proposals.
The Audit Reporting Workshop was held at the GolfView Conference Centre and Suites, Ikeja GRA as the fourth in the series. Earlier workshops were in Benin, Awka and Abuja.
Emeka Izeze, director and partner, said Audit Reporting Training: X-raying State Government Audit Reports is a flagship capacity development programme of FrontFoot Media Initiative.
“It is a targeted training of journalists which we are undertaking under the auspices of the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism and the sponsorship of the MacArthur Foundation,” Izeze affirmed.