Accountability and the need for an enabling environment | Dailytrust

Accountability and the need for an enabling environment

Before 2023 Politics Takes Centre Stage, there are few things that need to be in place as the dawn of the 2023 general elections draw nearer. As developmental efforts are underway in many sectors of the economy, it should be remembered by stakeholders (mainly the Executive arm of Government and policy makers alike) that fighting corruption is a governance thrust of the current federal government as led by President Muhammadu Buhari.

To consolidate on the above agenda, it is my view that the following legislations are critical: enactment of the Proceeds of Crime Management legislation; amendment of the Electoral Act, and the enactment of the Federal Audit Service legislation. These would definitely serve as enablers to strengthening the various systems they relate to.

Some of these legislations are in various stages of operation: as some are already in operation, others’ enactment/amendment processes are yet to be concluded. For instance, the current Electoral practice is guided by the Electoral Act which can very much be improved. The push for the inclusion of electronic voting machine (among other things) in 2019 during the amendment of the Act dominated the build-up to the 2019 general elections. This was owing to the fact it has the potential to improve votes collection and collation process. But for some reason, it was not captured in the last amendment leading to the 2019 general elections. This piece advocates for an amendment of the legislation to address this among other concerns.

The second instance is the Proceeds of Crime Bill which was drafted to address the problem of lack of transparency and accountability associated with the management of recovered funds/loots by the anti-corruption agencies in the country. According to the forwarding letter, the bill seeks to properly strengthen the law enforcement agencies “to seize, freeze and confiscate stolen assets in Nigeria while observing all related constitutional and human rights laws”. The current anti-graft procedure needs this to properly check all the necessary boxes with respect to transparency in the management of the assets. Although the bill was not given presidential assent in 2019 after its passage by the 8th Assembly, the Presidency has now forwarded another version to the National Assembly in October 2020 which has now passed first reading in the both houses of the National Assembly. This piece invites all development actors to keep on the push for its passage.

Third is the Federal Audit Service Commission Bill (FASCB). As the previous legislation on audit is outdated and does not cover the full scope of modern public sector auditing practice, the bill seeks to update this legislation for proper guidance in light of the above. It also seeks to reform the audit space by strengthening the office of the Auditor General for the federation relating to a plethora of issues which include: issues of financial independence, hiring of audit staff by setting up a Commission to take charge of it and other related issues, and according the Auditor General the necessary powers to drive compliance to audit recommendations and queries. These are some of the issues that need some attention as numerous cases of infractions by public officers have perennially been recurring.

To sum up, accountability can only thrive in an enabling environment; it is everyone’s duty to ensure that it is created.

Fidelis Onyejegbu Centre for Social Justice.

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