ABSENCE OF AUDITOR GENERAL MAY STALL 30BILLION DOLLAR LOAN

Strong indications emerged yesterday that plans by the Federal Government to borrow $29 billion from external sources may face some hurdles, following the non-appointment of a substantive Auditor-General of the Federation (AGF). Last week, the Presidency submitted its proposal to borrow $29 billion externally to the Senate, asking for an approval.

This is even as statistics showed at the weekend that the Federal Government has paid $1.62 billion to service external debts in five years.

Some Senators who spoke on the proposed loan, said such foreign credits and grants must be accompanied by a confirmation report by a substantive AGF before such requests are made.

president-muhammadu-buhariThe lawmakers said standards set by global financial institutions like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the African Development Bank (AfDB), require confirmation report from a substantive auditor before the funds are disbursed to recipient-countries.

Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriation, Danjuma Goje, had expressed doubts over the workability of the loan request during an interactive session with the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun and the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma last Thursday.

“I just hope that the Federal Government will succeed in obtaining these loans with the situation on ground,” Senator Goje had told the ministers.

Mrs. Adeosun had, however, assured the Senate Committee that necessary steps were being taken by the Federal Government to ensure a smooth sail for the loan.

Nigeria presently does not have a substantive AGF since the retirement in May, 2016 of the last occupant, Mr. Samuel Ukura. The tenure of Mrs. Florence Anyanwu, who is acting, has also expired.

The Public Accounts Committee in both chambers of the National Assembly had recently observed lack of coordination and poor quality of presentations by staff of the Office of the AGF in the absence of a substantive head.

The office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Babachir David Lawal, had in May, directed the Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC) to set in motion a machinery for the appointment of a new AGF.

The memo from the SGF, dated May 25, 2016, was signed by Mohammed Bukar, Permanent Secretary (General Services), Office of the SGF.

The FCSC had in July shortlisted and forwarded the names of three candidates for the position to President Muhammadu Buhari after written and oral interviews.

The shortlisted candidates were Christopher Nyong, Nabasu Bako and Omoniyi Adeyeye. Buhari is said to have since forwarded the names of the candidates to a seven-man committee he set up to determine the best man for the job.

It was gathered last week that the committee had since submitted its report and recommendations for approval to the President, but that the report is being kept in abeyance.

Meanwhile, statistics obtained from the Debt Management Office (DMO) in Abuja last weekend, revealed that external debts have cost the country a total of $1.62billion in interest payment in the last five years even as government spent $331,059, 850 on servicing its external debts in 2015.

The trend in debt profile has continued to generate concern from stakeholders which suggestively led the DMO to peg borrowing by the Federal Government at a limit in 2017 at $22.8billion equivalent to N6.73 trillion.

Further disclosing this growing trend, the DMO noted that in 2014, $346,723, 290 was spent on the same item; $297,329,300 was spent in 2013 while in 2012 and 2011, the servicing of external debts cost the nation $293,003,540 and $351,619, 070 respectively.

The trend has continued this year with $117,660,770 spent on serving the country’s external debt in the first quarter of the year and $47,998,430 in the second quarter, thereby making a total of $165,659,200 for the first six months of 2016, DMO said.

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