2021 budget: N4bn allocation to Auditor-General’s office meagre – Senate

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The Senate has described as meagre the N4.47 billion budgeted for the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation (OAGF) in the 2021 budget.

Chairman, Senate Committee on Public Accounts, Senator Matthew Urhoghide (PDP – Edo) with other members of the committee expressed their displeasure when officials of OAGF and Budget Office appeared before the Committee on Tuesday.

The committee decried the yearly poor budgetary ceiling to the Auditor-General’s office by the Budget Office, saying the allocations over the years were grossly inadequate.

Urhoghide explained that the committee had considered the budget office proposal for the OAGF and was dissatisfied with the budget proposal of N4.47 billion proposed to OAGF for the 2021 budget.

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He said the budget would not be adequate for the OAGF to audit over 600 Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) including foreign missions and their attachés.

According to him, there has been continued under-funding of OAGF which is constitutionally charged with the responsibility of ensuring transparency, accountability and probity in governance.

He said the OAGF was in need of replacing 247 retired staff which has not been provided for in the budget proposal.

“The promotion and annual increments of staff are also not factored in the year 2021 budget,” Urhoghide said.

According to him, the amount provided for the training and welfare of staff members which is the major asset of OAGF was inadequate for the performance of its statutory functions.

He said that the OAGF was in need of funds for the performance of specialised audit which was also provided for in the year 2021 budget proposal for the office.

He said there was a need to digitalise and automate the system for better performance noting that the OAGF’s budget proposal for this purpose was not approved by the Budget Office.

He said it was an irony that while the OAGF which was constitutionally established to ensure accountability and transparency in management of public funds was having reduced allocations while similar agencies established to achieve a fraction of the same objective are well funded.

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Urhoghide listed the agencies to include the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC).

According to him, EFCC approved appropriation for 2018 was N21.69billion, in 2019 it was N22.07 billion, and 2020 was N30.92 billion while 2021 proposal was N29.86 billion.

For ICPC, he said N5.09 billion was approved in 2018, the sum of N6.28 billion was for 2019, adding that N7.52 billion was approved in 2020, while N11.25 billion was proposed for 2021 budget.

He, however, said that OAGF which has the constitutional mandate of ensuring transparency on public fund was allocated N3.22 billion in 2018, another N3.15 billion in 2019, while N4.13 billion was for 2020 and N4.69 billion was being proposed for 2021.

He sought the cooperation of the Budget Office to provide solutions to the poor budgetary allocations of OAGF given its enormous responsibility of ensuring transparency in usage of public funds.

Responding, Director General of the Budget Office, Mr. Ben Akabueze, explained that the office was operating based on personnel cost budget template handed over to it by the Federal Government.

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