Former United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi-Annan, says corruption is a disease and transparency is essential part of its treatment.
Analysts opine that corruption is endemic in Nigeria, and that auditors, being the crusaders of transparency, have great roles to play in the treatment and cure of corruption in the country.
In 2018, the country ranked 144th in the 180 countries listed in Transparency International’s Corruption Index.
Similarly, in 2019, Transparency International also placed Nigeria 146th out of 180 countries in its corruption index rating.
The corruption ratings were, however, disputed as not being the true reflection of government’s sustained fight against corruption.
Analysts also agree that auditing is key in any accountability system, as it verifies and legitimises the information.
Experts say it helps public institutions to act in accordance with the principles of accountability and integrity, improve performance and earn the confidence of the citizens.
They said that auditing is an independent and systematic examination of the books, accounts, records and financial statements, and all supporting vouchers and documents of a business or other organisation, for verifying whether the accounting records truly and properly reflect all the transactions.
As watchdogs of a country’s public financial management, audit institutions have a key role to play in efforts to curb corruption.
President Muhammadu Buhari echoed the critical role of auditors at the Conference of Auditors, held recently in Abuja.
He said that auditors are properly positioned to check corrupt practices, stressing that corruption has deeply affected the development of the country.
The president said that through audit findings and recommendations, corrupt practices could be discovered early and loopholes blocked.
Buhari said that under-performance and ineffective audits contributed largely to governance problems, and charged auditors to produce high quality audit reports.
According to him, no one in government should be afraid of auditors if they have done the right thing.
“Upon assumption of office, I gave a directive to accounting officers to respond to audit queries within a short time frame.
“This is because of my appreciation of the roles and importance of auditors.
“It is in line with our administration’s financial transparency policy that we launched the open treasury portal last year.
“This again is to improve on accountability, access to information for all citizens, timeliness of financial information.
“A lot has been done, but there is so much more to do as the cancer of corruption has deeply infected our country and our governance processes.
“The fight cannot be won until all tiers of government and Nigerians are determined to win the fight against corruption.
“I appreciate that there are several challenges that you face as auditors.
“While efforts are being made to strengthen independence of your offices, I encourage you to try to achieve maximum impact with the powers that you currently have.
“Let me take this opportunity to remind you of your role in the fight against corruption.
“As accountability institutions in the federal, state and local governments, you review the financial performance of officers even when there is no petition or allegation; you are uniquely placed to fight corruption.
“There is literally no aspect of government performance or expenditure you cannot examine,’’ he explained.
Mr Ibrahim Magu, the Acting Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), said that auditors were partners in the fight against corruption.
Magu represented by Mr Aminu Ibrahim, said that collective efforts were required to fight corruption in the country.
Mr Shubham Chaudhuri, the World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, said the target of the Bank was to help the country to eliminate extreme poverty.
Chaudhuri emphasised the role of auditors in maximising every naira in order to reduce poverty and boost development in the country.
Mr Anthony Mkpe-Ayine, the Auditor-General for the Federation, who also spoke, noted that the presence of the President reminded the auditing community of the task ahead of them.
He pledged the commitment and dedication of auditors-general to deliver results that will be helpful to governments at all levels in spite challenges.
He said their constraint was the absence of an Audit Act which was a basic requirement for Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs).
He solicited the enactment of audit laws to further strengthen audit institutions in the country to perform better.
“We are also taking steps to improve the pace of our reforms through strategic partnership with other anti-corruption agencies and critical stakeholders, yet, there are a lot of grounds to cover and we must work within the limits of our current powers and resources.
“It is imperative that we carry out reforms in our audit institutions such that will position us to properly tackle the risks of the 21st century, especially in the context of Nigeria.
“We all need to think very deep on how to build audit institutions that can produce impactful results and contribute to good governance at all levels,’’ he said.
The Buhari Media Organisation, on its part, appealed to auditors in the country to join the fight against corruption.
In a statement by its Chairman, Niyi Akinsiju, and Secretary, Cassidy Madueke, the group noted that auditors had a major role to play in the renewed efforts of the Buhari-led administration to eradicate corruption in Nigeria.
The group said: “We are of the opinion that the auditors, as the first line of accountability in the governance system, should lead in the efforts to ensure accountability in public accounts.
“We, therefore, urge the auditors to always discharge their responsibilities diligently and without fear or favour, as failure to do that will open public coffers to predatory tendencies, stealing and unbridled corruption, and the implication is a lack of confidence in the government and inability to deliver basic amenities to the citizens.”
The BMO re-echoed Buhari’s clarion call on Nigerians not to be afraid of auditors if they had no skeleton in their cupboards.
It re-emphasised its belief that the president’s commitment to the fight against corruption was intended to utilise scarce government resources for the generality of the people, and auditors have a major role to play towards realising that objective.
“Time has come for the auditors at all tiers of government to step up their due process and accountability work in order to save the scarce resources and plug leakages in the financial system of the government.
“ Auditors have an important role to play in delivering good governance in the country, considering their vantage position in all the sectors of the public service.”
An Abuja based civil servant, Mrs Lilian Ukwa, said that auditing was necessary to ensure transparency in the civil service.
She regretted that some auditors had compromised their positions, noting that there should be checks and balances to curtail excesses.
“Many civil servants and politicians are usually scared of auditors because most of them will unravel hidden transactions in organisations,’’ she said.
With the increasing cases of corruption especially among the political class, stakeholders suggest that auditors should be well equipped and remunerated to enable them tackle the corruption challenge. (NANFeatures)