..…Appreciates Freedom Of Press, Says Facts Must Be Checked Before Rushing To Press
By Our Reporters
The Delta State House of Assembly Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has reacted to a news story by The Union Nigeria Online, alleging financial impropriety in the State’s legislature.
The Chairman, House Committee on Public Accounts, Hon. Anthony Emeka Elekeokwuri, while reacting to the publication, said the Committee would not have responded to the fake news report, but was doing so to set the records straight, as it has elected to educate the author of the story on the powers of the Committee as it pertains to the issue of financial management of government and its agencies.
“The attention of the Delta State House of Assembly Public Accounts Committee (PAC), has been drawn to a news story by The Union Nigeria Online publication alleging financial impropriety. The said publication is also seeking to know from where and how the PAC derives its legal authority to clear “financial infractions”.
Ordinarily, the Committee would not have responded to a fake report published by The Union Nigeria, but to set the records straight, PAC has elected to educate the author of the story, which has no baseline”, he said.
Hon Elekeokwuri explained that Sections 128 and 129 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as altered) empowers the PAC to conduct investigations, procure evidence, summon any person in Nigeria to give evidence and issue warrant to compel the attendance of any person.
He also stated that Section 13 (1) of the Delta State Audit Law, 2021 provides for the submission of the Auditor-General’s Report to the House for consideration, saying that the provisions of Order XV, Rule 110, sub-rule (2) of the Rules of Delta State House of Assembly 2012, specifically mandates the Public Accounts Committee to examine the Accounts showing the appropriation of the sums granted to meet the public expenditure, together with the State Auditor’s Report.
The Lawmaker noted that the Committee shall for the purpose of discharging assigned duty, have the power to send for persons, papers and records and report to the House from time to time.
He Elekeokwuri explained further that going by the provisions of the Delta State Fiscal Responsibility Law, 2020 (as amended) and the time line given by the State Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability Programme (SFTAS), the Auditor General of the State is required to publish his report three months to the end of the financial year saying, “In other words, the MDAs that are still in the process of retirement of their transactions may not be accommodated in the published Report”.
While pointing out that a Committee of the House is a Quasi-judicial body, the Lawmaker said “relying on these provisions, the PAC has legal authority to summon, sanction and discharge any financial related issue/matter. These was exactly what the PAC did in the case of the Auditor- General Report of 2019”.
“Furthermore, in carrying out this assignment, the PAC adopted the following strategies: Called for written responses from the MDAs that were queried (including the House; analyzed all the responses; invited for technical sessions those MDAs whose responses were not satisfactory in their defenses and explanations to the queries; carried out on-the-spot inspection of some project sites; and cleared and discharged queries that were satisfactorily explained and certified by the Auditor-General of the State”.
According to him, on submission of the 2019 Audited Report, the Committee invited the Clerk of the House for a technical session with members of the Committee which had the Auditor-General (State) in attendance, stating that, “At the session, the Clerk in addition to her explanations submitted copies of audit certificates on expenditure items that were queried and reported in the 2019 Audit Report. It was on the basis of this, that the Auditor-General and the Committee cleared and discharged the issues raised. Therefore, the Clerk of the House has done her part and the Committee has recommended in its Report accordingly”.
“I wish to emphasize that the Committees of the Delta State House of Assembly are Quasi-judicial bodies. In the case of the 2019 Audit Report, all queries reported by the Auditor General were adequately considered and treated accordingly by the PAC. In making our recommendations, the Committee relied on all explanations and submissions by the alleged erring MDAs, including the House. The Public is respectfully referred to the report of Public Accounts Committee on “The Review of the Report of the Auditor-General (State) on the Accounts of the Delta State Government for the Year Ended 31st December, 2019” published on the Delta State website for further clarification”, he said.
The Lawmaker reaffirmed that the Public Accounts Committee has the jurisdiction and powers to make recommendations to the House.
“While the PAC appreciates the freedom of the Press, the author of the story got it all wrong. He is therefore advised to learn to exercise restraints, check his facts before running to press”, Elekeokwuri advised in the statement.