An open letter was circulated on Thursday for signatures among officials of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) in an attempt to stop passage of an organic law containing a clause that would allow the Auditor General to investigate NACC officials.
The move came as the organic law on the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) was deliberated in its final reading by the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) on Thursday.
Among other things, the proposed law would give the Auditor General the authority to conduct an initial investigation against allegedly corrupt NACC officials. The Auditor General would be limited to an initial investigation and would have to pass the case on to the anti-graft committee in the event that they found irregularities.
According to a source in NACC, officials were concerned that the scrutiny could affect the agency’s work in combating graft as well as lead to conflict between the two agencies.
The NACC officials are worried that even limiting the OAG’s authority to an initial investigation would go beyond what the Constitution has allowed, the source said on condition of anonymity.
Those authorised to scrutinise NACC officials should be legal experts in the justice system. The Auditor General’s overall authority is more aligned with matters of monetary and fiscal discipline and not criminal procedure, he added.
More importantly, this could be a loophole allowing offenders under scrutiny by the NACC to buy some time by making a complaint with the OAG to investigate the officials, the source said.
There were already several mechanisms that keep NACC officials in check, he said. They include the organic law governing the agency, which prohibits them from being a stakeholder in the cases they were working on. Also, the agency’s ethical standards include double-punishment for officials found to have violated conduct requirements.
In addition, it is also a norm that other officials stay away from those involved in the cases investigated by the agency, the source said.