Henceforth, heads of MDAs who fail to honour the invitation of the Senate public accounts committee will be compelled to do so “through issuance of warrants of arrest against them,” the committee chairman has said.
Matthew Urhoghide (PDP, Edo) gave this warning on Thursday after the absence of all six MDA heads invited for an investigative hearing on the audit queries issued by the office of the auditor-general.
Culpable for this, Mr Urhoghide said, are the ministers for information, petroleum resources, power, women Affairs, solid minerals and the head of the National Population Commission (NPC).
“Over a month ago, we wrote to them to come and answer the audit queries raised against them by the auditor-general of the federation in its 2015 audit report,” Mr Urhoghide said.
“But they have deliberately and irresponsibly failed to honour our invitation. Their failure to appear before this committee amount to outright disobedience to constituted authority.”
He noted further that rather than coming, the ministers and heads of the affected agencies gave different reasons which are “are absurd, untenable and not serving any public interest” for their nonappearance at the investigative hearing.
“For example, while the ministry of information gave flimsy excuse of contractors who handled 2015 projects not being around, other ministries like power, women affairs said they are seeing the copies of the queries for the first time,” Mr Urhoghide explained.
This, he said, is wont among public officers in the country and is a blight on public accountability which they should uphold.
“Ministers that even supposed to come ran away. We won’t tolerate this any longer, because the infractions observed in the accounts of their various ministries run into billions of naira.
“They will surely be compelled to appear before this committee through issuance of warrants of arrest against them when next they fail our invitation in line with section 89 of the constitution,” the lawmaker said.
Mr Urhoghide said the nonappearance of the agency heads is undermining the efficiency of the National Assembly and one of “the reasons Nigerians often accuse them of not discharging its duties.”
“It is only in Nigeria that people will spend government’s money and fail to show up to defend their expenditure,” he said.
Also at the hearing were the auditor-general, Anthony Ayine, Ibrahim Hadeija (APC, Jigawa), Yusuf Yusuf (APC, Taraba) among others.
In their respective remarks, they pitched their tents with the committee chairman that warrant of arrest should be issued against ministers and heads of agencies that disregard their invitations when next they are invited.