The simmering crisis brewing in Audit House over seniority in the appointment of substantive Auditor General for the Federation (OAuGF) has threatened to uproot the harmonious working relationship existing in the Federal Government’s Office.
Many workers in the OAuGF who spoke with the Sunday Tribune on condition of anonymity said, if the Head of Service of the Federation (HCSF) fails to restore the seniority ranking in line with the Public Service Rule (PSR 020106), the disrespect, which has crept into the Service will continue unabated, thereby dampening the morale of workers, which is almost at the lowest ebbs presently.
The Federal Government’s recruitment process to select a substantive Auditor General for the Federation following the retirement of the occupant of office seems to have been stalled for inexplicable reasons.
It is on record that the matter was reported to the House of Representatives Public Accounts Committee, which held a public hearing on it, and the Senate Public Accounts Committee directed a halt to the recruitment process.
The seniority challenge among Directors in the Office of the Auditor General for the Federation came to the fore in 2021 when the Director (Human Resource Management) on behalf of the Director of Audit Overseeing the Office wrote to the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation requesting for intervention to resolve the security challenges that it encountered.
In a memo referenced: OAuGF/C/QP: 1285/VOL11/’T’/4, dated 1st February 2021, the complainant listed five Directors, all on grade level 17 and requested the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation to intervene on the matter.
In a swift response, the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation in a memo referenced: HCSF/PSO/152/11/150 dated 9th February 2021 and signed by Babura T. Inuwa, Director, Employee Mobility (CMO) and addressed to the Director of Audit Overseeing the Office stated the seniority order of the affected Directors in the OAuGF.
The reply reads in part: “I am directed to refer your letter Ref, No: OAuGF/C/QP: 1285/VOL11/’T’/4 dated 1st February 2021 on the above subject and to convey the seniority list of the Directors in your office as guided by Public Service Rule (PSR. 020106) which stated inter-alia that ‘Seniority in any department shall be determined by the entry/the resumption of duty certified by an authorised officer as reflected in the appropriate register’ as shown below: (i) Mr. Isikuku Julius Michael (ii) Mrs. Ogundowo Adeoti Oluseyi (iii) Mrs. Ugwu Ngozi Eucharia (iv) Mr. Onwudili Ogochukwu (v) Mr. Gbayan Shirwu Gabriel.
“I am to add that, with the above clarification this matter would be laid to rest and allow for a good and harmonious working relationship devoid of rancour among the Directors and other staff of the Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation”.
Another letter was written by the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation to the OAuGF on 18th July 2022 on the same matter.
Referenced, HCSF/SPSO/ODD/E&WP/64421/166 and signed by B.O.C. Omogo, Director, Organisation Design and Development, the memo in its list of seniority placed Mr. Onwudili Ogochukwu top whereas he was number iv in the earlier memo and moved Mr. Isikuku Julius Michael who was number one to number five.
Mr. Omogo added that “This letter, therefore supersedes our earlier letter Ref. No. HCSF/PSO/152/11/150 dated 9th February 2021 on the subject”.
Again, on 6th September 2022, a Permanent Secretary in the Federal Civil Service Commission, Dr. Mary A. Ogbe wrote a letter to the Auditor-General for the Federation congratulating him on his retirement from service and directed that he handed over Mr. Julius Michael Isiuku being the most senior director.
Referenced: “FCSC/PS/31/VOL11/283” and titled: “Retirement of Auditor General for the Federation”, it reads in part: “I am directed to congratulate you on your service to the nation and to wish you successful retirement life. As you retire on Wednesday, 7th September 2022, you are kindly directed to hand over to the most senior Director, Mr. Julius Michael Isiuku to oversee the affairs of the Office of the Auditor General for the Federation pending the appointment of an Auditor General of the Federation”.
Barely 24 hours after, another letter came, again from the Permanent Secretary in the Federal Civil Service Commission, Dr. Mary A. Ogbe, reversing the earlier one.
Dated 7th September 2022 with reference FCSC/PS/31/VOL.11/287 and addressed to the Auditor-General for the Federation on the same issue.
The letter reads in part: ” I am directed to congratulate you on your service to the nation and wish you a successful retirement life. In line with the seniority determination amongst the Directors in the Office of the Auditor General for the Federation (OAGF) determined by the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation (OHCSF) in its letter of 15th July 2022 Ref: HCSF/SPSO/ODD/E&WP/64421/166 which was made available to the Commission this morning, Mr. Andrew Ogochukwu Onwudili is adjudged the most senior Director in the Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation and is therefore to oversee the Office of the Auditor General until the appointment of a substantive Auditor General for the Federation. This letter therefore supersedes our earlier letter Ref: FCSC/PS/31/VOL.11/283 of 6th September, 2022 on the subject”.
SUNDAY TRIBUNE investigations revealed that this letter had caused disaffection and misgivings in the OAuGF, where many staff question the rationale behind what they regard as a deliberate ploy to scheme out qualified Directors to the advantage of the favoured one.
Perhaps, the last straw that broke the camel’s back is the letter dated 18th January, 2023, from the same Federal Civil Service Commission inviting “all eligible candidates shortlisted for selection exercise” to appear for accreditation.
The letter signed by the Director, (Recruitment & Appointment), Ogaba Ede, invited 11 candidates none of whom has up to two years left in the Service in negation of the Public Service Rule.
A director who is among the five most senior in the OAuGF as stated by the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, and who grew up in the system but still has up two left in Service was conspicuously left out in the list of those invited for accreditation.
The flaws identified in the recruitment process had necessitated the call to the Head of Service (HoS) to intervene by directing the Chairman of the Federal Civil Service Commission to follow the first advertisement put out for the recruitment process.
Further investigations by SUNDAY TRIBUNE revealed that no reason has been given for leaving out one of the most qualified Directors from the recruitment process and the Director has not been found wanting by any disciplinary committee.
Against this background, it is therefore doubtful if the aims of the OHCSF to ensure that “with the clarification this matter would be laid to rest and allow for a good and harmonious working relationship devoid of rancour among the Directors and other staff of the Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation”, will remedy the situation until laid down procedure is followed.