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Ekiti State in South West Nigeria and Yobe State in North East of the country have emerged as the best-performing states in terms of transparency and accountability in the management and utilisation of public funds and implementation of public policies.

Lagos and Benue states were placed as the least occupying 36 and 35 positions.

The details are contained in the 2023 edition of the Subnational Audit Efficacy (SAE) Index conducted by Paradigm Leadership Support Initiative (PLSI), a non-profit organisation fostering public accountability in Nigeria.

The SAE assesses the level of transparency and accountability operational in the management and utilisation of public funds and implementation of public policies across all 36 states of the federation through public audit and key actors in the public audit action cycle.

Ekiti and Yobe states scored 73 per cent followed by Akwa Ibom and Katsina states that secured 3rd and 4th positions with 60 per cent and 53 per cent.

Sokoto, Taraba, and Ondo States scored 31 per cent placing them at the 15th spot, while Benue and Lagos states lagged behind, occupying the 35th and 36th positions with 10 per cent and 5 per cent.

According to the Executive Director, Olusegun Elemo, PLSI said the SAE Index 2023 revealed that 34 States (except Anambra and Benue) have modern audit laws to guarantee the independence of Supreme Audit Institutions and strengthen public audit practices at the state level.

Speaking during the launch of the report on Thursday in Abuja, Elemo said although the improvement witnessed in the policy landscape has not yielded much owing to the lack of effective implementation of enacted audit laws in various states which continued to stand in the way of accountability and development.

He said: “The Subnational Audit Efficacy Index, initiated in 2021, serves as an annual scorecard assessing the temperature of public finance management and policy implementation practices at the state level.

“We retained the same methodology deployed for the 2022 assessment and collected, analyzed, and validated data provided by Supreme Audit Institutions, Public Accounts Committees, Offices of Accountant-General, Civil Society and Media Organisations in all 36 states of the federation.”

Elemo further noted that PLSI would continue to utilise evidence from its annual assessment to provide tailored support to subnational governments especially in delivering technical assistance to strengthen capacity of relevant state and non-state actors to enhance transparency and accountability practices for improved quality of life for citizens.

He expressed concern over the waning performance of states, noting that results from the latest assessment indicated further decline in performance of policy actors and erosion of reforms needed to sustain and improve on the World Bank-Assisted States Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability (SFTAS) Programme for Results implemented between 2018 and 2022 of which $1.5bn was provided to state governments as grants.

“While the average score for the 2022 assessment showed 31.81%, the 2023 Index revealed a total average of 30.58% indicating a 1.23% decline year on year,” he stated.

Elemo elaborated on several cross-cutting recommendations aimed at enhancing public finance management practices at the subnational level in Nigeria including the need for the Executive, Legislature, and the Office of the Auditor-General at the state level to collaborate to remedy inadequacies in the audit legal framework and implement the audit law effectively.

“Findings from the report showed that only 4 out of 36 States have made progress toward implementing financial autonomy and 12 out of 36 States have implemented legal provisions to activate administrative independence for the Office of the Auditor-General.

“Also, the report noted that none of the 36 States produced a standard performance audit report on the government’s programs, projects, or policies in the 2022 financial year.

“Furthermore, only 3 out of 36 States are sufficiently involving civic and media actors in the audit process of their states and just 5 out of 36 States have effective Public Accounts Committee in their Houses of Assembly,” he added.

Credit: The Nation

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