Most Nigerian political parties lack accountability and transparency in their fiscal practices, a report on the finances of the parties by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has shown.
For at least three consecutive years, the Commission has prepared damning reports on the state of finances of the existing political parties in the country. Most of the parties are always found wanting. But in all those years, neither INEC nor the National Assembly, to which the reports are sent, has made a move to sanction the errant parties.
The latest external auditors reports on the accounts of the political parties for 2008, obtained by NEXT, indicates that only 14 of the 54 political parties recognised by INEC at the time had adequate financial records.
Some parties, including the People’s Democratic Party, have consistently flouted the Electoral Act. Other major parties; the PDP, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the Labour Party (LP), the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) all had questionable records.
Out of the major political parties, only the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP) had its financial papers in order.
Nigeria’s largest party, the PDP, which also has majority representation at the local, state, and federal government levels, could not account for the finances it received in 2008; neither did it conduct any internal audits that year.
“The party does not maintain a Donation Register which is contrary to Section 95(2a) of the Electoral Act 2000,” INEC’s external auditors reported.
For the AC, now Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), although the party kept its internal audited accounts for the year, it claimed that it spent almost N10 million naira above its income for the year.
After examining the books of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), the auditors called for an investigation of the party for failing to disclose the cash it received from INEC as grants.
“The non-disclosure of the N6 million grant from INEC by the party should be investigated,” the auditors said.
“The party claimed there was no income during the period under review despite the fact that the Independent National Electoral Commission releases a sum of six million to the party during the year under review as grant,”
For the Republican Party of Nigeria (RPN), which claimed it had an income of N21.6 million, the auditors said, “Fraud is imminent. Falsification of records is inevitable. It is not possible to ascertain the accuracy of financial position of the party; hence the account cannot be relied upon.”
The United Nigeria People’s Party (UNPP) reported that it had an income of N6.6 million but claimed that it had expended a double of that sum.
The spokespersons of the PDP and the ACN did not respond to telephone calls for comments on the shoddy financial records of their parties.
But some analysts commented that these are acts of corruption.
“Unregulated use of money in politics is another form of corruption,” Jide Ojo, a development consultant, who has worked on party financing, said.
INEC won’t act
There are no indications that the electoral body has cautioned or sanctioned the parties. Kayode Idowu, the spokesperson for Attahiru Jega, the commission’s chairman, said he could not speak on events that occurred before July 2010, when Mr Jega took charge at the Commission.
“For now, the Commission is trying to set the right framework to conduct proper and successful elections. After the elections, the Commission will then look at anything else,” Mr. Idowu said in Abuja.
A director at INEC who spoke on condition of anonymity, however, said that the commission, under Mr. Jega’s leadership, will ensure that all new audits are acted upon.
“The fact that the commission had not been acting on the reports in the past does not mean it will continue happening. From now on, all audit reports will be acted on,” the source said.
‘Blame the National Assembly’
The Constitution and the Electoral Act, confer an oversight responsibility on INEC and the National Assembly ‘to monitor the organisation and operation of the Political Parties, including their finances’. Specifically, INEC is mandated to arrange for ‘the annual examination and audit of the funds and accounts of political parties’, according to Section 15(d) of the Constitution.
Section 226(1) of the Constitution makes it mandatory for the National Assembly to obtain the annual account of all political parties.
Mr. Ojo said the Senate ought to take the blame if the audit reports have not been acted upon and if the erring parties have not been sanctioned.
But the Senate says it is not sure whether or not the records for 2006, 2007, and 2008 were submitted to the National Assembly. Ayogu Eze, the spokesperson for the Senate said he is currently on his campaign trail and could not say if he had received any political parties audit reports from INEC in the past four years.
The Senate committee on INEC could explain why the Senate has not acted on the audit reports.
“I would not be in a position to answer because the report could have been sent directly to my chairman. Presently, they are all on campaign. He will return after the elections so you can call us then,” Phillip Fayam, the secretary of the Senate Committee on INEC said.