Thursday, May 3, 2012

INEC’s 2010 Audit Report on Political Parties

On April 1, 2012, Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission officially published the 2010 audit report on political parties in three national newspapers in accordance with the constitutional and electoral act provisions. A press release by the Commission’s Director of Public Affairs, Mr. Emmanuel Umenger states: “The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has published for public consumption, the executive summary of the External Auditors’ Report on the accounts of the 63 registered political parties in the April 1st, 2012 editions of three national newspapers. They are: Sunday Punch, pages 56-59; Sunday Sun, pages 65-68 and Sunday Trust, pages 41-44. The publication has been done in strict conformity with Section 15(c) of the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended). Specifically, the section stipulates that the Commission shall “arrange for the annual examination and auditing of the funds and accounts of political parties, and publish a report on such examination and audit for public information”. Members of the public and stakeholders in the electoral process are by this release, requested to go through these three newspapers in order to familiarize themselves with the details of the report of the audited accounts of Nigeria’s 63 political parties, please.”

This is commendable of INEC. Indeed, section 226 (1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) reinforced the aforementioned section quoted by the INEC Public Affairs Director. The section says “The Independent National Electoral Commission, shall in every year prepare and submit to the National Assembly  a report on the accounts and balance sheet of every political party. Will this audit report, having being published in consonance with provision of section 89 (4) of Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) be sent to the national assembly? It remains to be seen.

I have taken a critical look at the findings in the audit report; it is noteworthy that Nigerian political parties’ compliance level with political finance regulations leaves much to be desired. The audit report shows that eight political parties were classified as “yet to co-operate with the Commission’s auditors” which invariably means they did not make their books of account available to INEC auditors. For the majority that cooperated with the auditors, the examiners verdict on their accounts book was very damning.  Indeed, only two of the parties got INEC’s pass mark out of 63 parties. The first party to receive favorable comment from INEC’s auditors was the Citizens Popular Party (CPP). According to INEC, “the party had its internal report and account. Conventional accounting records were kept and maintained by the party. Internal control procedures were in place.” The party is also said to maintain both its fixed assets and membership registers while budget and budgetary control were in place. INEC auditors further remarked that CPP’s “financial statement can be said to be true and fair and the accounts can be relied upon” 

 The second party that did well is the National Majority Democratic Party (NMDP). According to the professional examiners, “The party had its prepared and audited internal financial statement for the year under review.”  The auditors however observed that the conventional books of accounts though maintained but were not updated and that the party’s internal control procedures were weak. It further remarked that “Fixed assets and membership registers maintained by the party were not comprehensive and the budget for the year was prepared but not duly followed.” The auditors noted that “the financial statement can be said to be true and fair and the account can be relied upon.” With the exception of these two parties all the other parties including those with membership in national and state assemblies are said to have common malaise which include lack of internal audited report for the year under examination; non-existing conventional books of account; lack of budget and budgetary control measures and lack of membership and fixed assets register.

The non-compliance of majority of political parties with legal provisions as stipulated in section 225 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended); section 89(1&2) of Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) and Political Finance Manual and Handbook shows Nigerian parties’ unwillingness to comply with political finance regulations. It is noteworthy that this has been a sustained practice from the past. Indeed, many months after the election expenses report of political parties that contested the 2011 general elections had been due, only a handful of the parties have filed their report with the Political Party Monitoring and Liaison Department of INEC as stipulated in section 92 (3) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended). Not only have most party ignored this provision, another of such contained in section 93(4) which states that “A political party sponsoring the election of a candidate shall, within 3 months after the announcement of the result of the election, file a report of the contribution made by the individual and entities to the Commission” have also suffered similar rebuff. It is left for INEC as the regulator of political parties in Nigeria to enforce compliance of these erring parties with political finance regulations.