Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Sealing leakages: The Accountant General example, by Ibrahim Mandawari

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The idea of dwindling economy explains an occurrence wherein an economy is in a state of financial turmoil, often as a result of a period of negative activity based on the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) rate.

In recent history, the crash in global oil price and the global pandemic jointly made the problem of dwindling economy a global phenomenon. This occurrence, undesired as it were, in no small measure affected Nigeria, like many other countries, leading to dwindling finances.

The cardinal vision of the current administration is infrastructural development and this cannot be accomplished and/or sustained with borrowings alone. The government should not continue to borrow to fund critical infrastructure. In the face of dwindling finances, the swiftness and effectiveness of government’s reaction and search for remedy became imperative in order to once again steer the country into the path of growth and progress.  The envisaged and plausible course of action was to address factors that militate against the growth of the economy. This thus threw up the need to look inward to discover what was not done right and what else needed to be done to shore up the country’s finances.

The Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF), otherwise referred to as the Treasury of the Federation has become a central player in the quest to kick start the reversal of the country’s dwindling revenue inflows. Established under Civil Service re-organization Act No. 43 of 1988, the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation is currently headed by Alhaji Ahmed Idris, FCNA – an experienced Accountant and public finance expert. Being responsible for the management of all receipts and payments of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation is certainly aware of the sad financial situation.

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As typical of a responsible agency, the Federal Treasury has evolved strategies, implemented measures and ceaselessly mobilized resources and men in a concerted effort to see an improvement in the revenue inflows. Under the leadership of Ahmed Idris, the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation has dared many forces in the campaign to seal leakages and stimulate increase in revenue inflows. The Accountant General of the Federation is also unrelenting in mobilizing well-meaning individuals and agencies to evolve ideas that would lead to improvement in the situation.

In 2020, at a workshop for Treasury Directors in Kano State, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed announced the decision of the Federal Government to post Treasury Directors from the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF) to revenue generating agencies as Directors of Revenue. In announcing the decision, the Minister charged the prospective Revenue Directors to be above board and work to ensure increased revenue generation by the agencies. This soothing announcement was the official confirmation of the strategy engineered by the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation to guarantee adequate monitoring of revenue accruals and ensure appropriate remittances by the revenue generating agencies.

The Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS), certainly one of the foremost reform initiatives of the Federal Government, has helped eliminate the ghost workers syndrome, thereby blocking the conduit pipe for the wastage of government funds.  At a training workshop in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State for IPPIS Role Players in the South-South geopolitical zone, the Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, confirmed that the IPPIS has brought significant level of transparency in administration of government payroll system. This confession by the Accountant General of the Federation was a glaring testimony to the efforts of the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation in ensuring the efficiency of the IPPIS. To entrench greater performance of the IPPIS, the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation has decentralized the operations of the IPPIS and promised not to relent in implementing new strategies to block all leakages and sustain flawless payroll system.

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The Federal Treasury has initiated actions to forestall undesired setback to the implementation of government’s financial management reform initiatives. The Office of the Accountant General of the Federation spearheaded a comprehensive review of treasury forms and other accounting source documents as well as the public financial regulations.  At the inauguration of the Review Committees, the Accountant General of the Federation mentioned that the reviews was necessary because the contents of the treasury forms and other accounting source as well as the financial regulations were no longer relevant and useful to drive the various public finance management reforms of the Federal Government. According to the Accountant General of the Federation, this action demonstrated the resolve of the Federal Treasury at entrenching probity, accountability and transparency in the management of public financial resources.

Unrelenting in its resolve to seal leakages, the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation undertook the audit modernization and monitoring process in Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to entrench proficiency in the audit processes. A comprehensive training workshop was organized for internal auditors to get them acquainted with the new procedures. The Office of the Accountant General of the Federation also recently launched the Financial Transparency Policy/Open Treasury Portal as part of the public financial management initiatives. This policy is meant to guarantee timely availability of financial information to stakeholders and the general public by all government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs). Through this policy, revenue inflows and expenditures by MDAs can be monitored and questions asked where necessary.

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The vision of the Treasury to cultivate a positive change in the management of finances has been demonstrated through advocacy campaigns by the Accountant General of the Federation to encourage government agencies to seal leakages, adopt new management strategies and utilize their assets to generate more revenue. To all the agencies that the Accountant General of the Federation has interacted with, the messages had been the same – entrench the ideals of transparency, accountability and openness in the management of financial resources and implement ideas that will improve revenue inflows.

The fact that government alone cannot achieve the desired end has never been lost on the Accountant General of the Federation. He has seized every opportunity to task private organizations and professional associations to fashion out viable ideas that will assist the government achieve the desired end. Recently, the Treasury announced that it was undertaking a research to establish approaches that will improve the current state of the finances.

To sustain the financial management reform initiatives of the government, it is imperative to provide effective financial and accounting training for public officers. Being fully aware of this truth, the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation has given the needed attention to the Federal Treasury Academy, located at Orozo, in the Federal Capital Territory, to make it a premier institution for developing human capacity in public finance education and management.

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