Group seeks court interpretation of FoI over refusal to release Forensic Audit Report on missing $20bn

Posted by News Express | 29 March 2015 | 3,335 times

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A Non-Governmental Organisation, Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC) has called on the civil society community and the Nigerian media to approach a court of competent jurisdiction to interpret section 2(7) of the Freedom of Information Act 2011 (FoI), with a view to expanding its frontiers.

The call is sequel to the group’s futile attempt to obtain a copy of the  audited report of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) books by Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC), based on the allegation of missing $20 billion by the former Central Bank of Nigeria governor, Alhaji Sanusi Lamido Sanusi (now Emir of Kano).

The report was publicly presented to the President by PwC representative on March 19, 2015, following its submission by the Auditor-General of the Federation, who subsequently addressed the press with selected highlights of the report. Several efforts by stakeholders, including the Federal House of Representatives, to obtain a copy of the report were met with stiff resistance from the government.

As a result, the Civil Society Network Against Corruption - a coalition of over hundred and fifty anti-corruption organisations whose primary aim is to constructively combat corruption and ensure effective monitoring of anti-graft agencies charged with the fight against corruption and enthronement of transparency, accountability, and probity towards the eradication of corruption in Nigeria – is exploring provisions of the FoI Act to enable them get the report.

This was disclosed in a media statement signed by the chairman of CSNAC, Mr Olanrewaju Siraju.

In a letter dated February 20, 2015 and addressed to the audit firm, the group observed: "Your firm, PriceWaterhouse Coopers, a renowned international audit company, was contracted by the Federal Government of Nigeria to undertake a forensic audit of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, following claims of the corporation’s failure to remit to the Federation Account $20 billion, being accruals from crude oil sales between January 2012 and July 2013.”

The letter stated further: “These irregularities informed the Federal Government’s invitation of PwC to undertake forensic audit of the financial activities of NNPC.”

The group, therefore, requested a copy of the report in accordance with Section 1(1) of the FoI Act 2011. PwC was reminded of its responsibility under the Act: “As a private Organisation that has rendered public service to the Nigerian government and was paid from the public coffers for this service, Section 2(7) of the Nigerian Freedom of Information Act, 2011, therefore applies to PwC.”

In what qualifies to be considered a speedy response, PwC replied the request, refusing to oblige the group a copy of the report, via a letter addressed to CSNAC chairman, dated March 16, 2015 and signed by Dafe Akpeneye, general counsel to the company.

He said whereas the company admitted its engagement by the Nigerian government for the services, PwC discharged itself of any responsibility under the FoI Act.

According to him, “the report was prepared on the basis of our engagement with the government and we would not be in a position to release this report to you on the basis of confidentiality. These confidentiality obligations are not overridden by the provision of the Freedom of Information Act 2011 referred to in your letter, as we do not fall within the definition of public institution as contemplated by the Act.”

With this PwC response, we await the next line of action from the civil society community and the media

•Photo shows CSNAC


Source: News Express

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