From Uche Usim, Abuja
To maintain and operate the federation account is certainly an uphill task especially in a time of recession. That is the mandate of Ahmed Idris, the Account General of the Federation (AGF).
The man is obviously on the hot seat, despite his cozy office at the Treasury House. As the chief accounting officer for the receipts and payments of account of Nigeria, Idris is saddled with the responsibility of supervising the accounts of federal ministries and extra-ministerial departments. He is to collate, present and publish statutory financial statements of account required by the Minister of finance and above all, manage federal government investments.
Recently, the Finance Ministry held a meeting with Chief Executives of federal government agencies and departments to stress the need to eliminate wasteful spending while ensuring expenses matched the desired results.
After the meeting, the AGF told Daily Sun that government was bent on plugging revenue leakages and as such, had churned out measures to eliminate wastages.
He also said Chief Executives of government agencies that flout the rules of engagement would be sanctioned as there are no sacred cows.
Idris is a chartered accountant with over 20 years experience. He served as Director of Finance and Accounts at the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) headquarters.
He is also a Fellow of Association of National Accountants of Nigeria and Fellow, Association of Financial Analysts of Nigeria. He is a member of other professional bodies including Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria, Certified Institute of Cost Management of Nigeria and Association of Certified Fraud Examiners.
Below are the excerpts of the interview.
Meeting with MDAs
We had a meeting with heads of MDA’s and we bared it all. It was a meeting to state the stark reality that the resources we used to have are no longer there. It was also a message of changing our attitude to suit the present circumstances. Revenues have gone down and there’s need for us to readdress our thinking and our thinking in the way and manner we manage our resources, especially in today’s era of recession. The meeting afforded us the opportunity to be in touch with core private sector players. We agreed to stick to the resolutions reached. It must be business, business, and business. Again, when we talk of business, business, and business, it doesn’t mean spending without results. Rather, it means spending to see value for money. It means spending to see concrete results. It also means managing scarce resources judiciously. It also departing from the usual way of handling government issues or spending public revenue. It gives the message of transparency, responsiveness, effectiveness and accountability.
Blocking revenue leakages
We’re now consolidating on the gains of the TSA. We’re taking it to the next level by bringing about some of these initiatives that have to do with efficiency, which is anchored in the Ministry of Finance and very soon we’ll reach out to those we need to on this. More so, there’s also another initiative on continuous audit. We also need to roll out more vibrant treasury circulars to do with definition of operating surplus, disclosure, which is financial statement of Ministries, Departments and Agencies. These are initiatives that have been put in place partly in my office and others, in the Ministry of Finance. All these measures are to ensure we get to where we want to be and then turn the economy from recession to growth and prosperity.
Performance of 2016 budget
The 2016 budget is moving fine. So far in capital budget, we’ve paid over N700 billion, which is enormous and has never happened in recent years in the history of this country. And I think all these actions are taken to revive the economy. You can see work going on everywhere. Not just in Abuja but all over the federation. Wherever there’s capital project, it’s ongoing and contractors are back to sight. And we’ll soon begin to see results.
Again you say N700 billion is small, but it’s not small. We’ll do more and we’ll do more than 50 per cent of the budget before the year runs out. I can assure you that. We’re still coming up with more money as it relates to capital projects. Our initiatives now in all these areas is to redirect our attention away from consumption to capital development. And that’s where the bulk of the spending is being done.
The process of the 2017 budget has started with consultations with relevant stakeholders, especially with the Ministry of Budget and National Planning. Even my office and the Ministry of Finance are on it. We’ve gone to defend part of our submissions. It has started.
Monitoring and evaluation
That is also another important area being given prominence. The Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit is going to roll out some modalities and very soon, our staff will be out to monitor some of these initiatives that have been put in place. Not just at federal level, but at state level also because we’re engaging them. You’re aware some funds were given out as bailouts. It wasn’t for free. So, we must go out and monitor what is being done. Is it being spent as agreed or as expected?
The Chief Executives of agencies, when they come for our monthly FAAC meeting, will pass on the message of performance based spending. Actually, the message isn’t just for the executives also but for all and sundry. If the message isn’t taken down to the level of operatives, it means it’s not flying. So, we’ll continue to dialogue with state governments to ensure prudent spending.
Whenever there’s a rule and there’s an infraction, definitely, there will be sanctions. And I can tell you categorically that we’ll do more in terms of oversight by the office of the Accountant General of the Federation. We’ll come up with new ideas, new ways and mechanisms to check the system including end of year closure exercise. There’s now better visibility with the Treasury Single Account (TSA and the Government Integrated Financial and Management Information System (GIFMIS). All agencies are being viewed and whenever there’s abnormality in terms of spending and expenditure, we’ll pick it up immediately and act accordingly.
The Office of the Accountant – General of the Federation was established under Civil Services re- organisation Decree No. 43 of 1988.
It is to maintain and operate the accounts of the consolidated revenue fund, department fund, contingencies fund and other public funds and provides cash backing for the operation of the federal government;
The office also conduct routine and in-depth inspection of the books of accounts of federal ministries and extra-Ministerial department to ensure compliance with rules, regulations, policies, and internal audit guides. It also investigates cases of fraud, loss of funds, assets and store items and other financial malpractices in ministries/extra-ministerial department. It is saddled with the duty of ensure revenue monitoring and accounting and issues officially approved forms bearing Treasury Numbers for use in all Federal Ministries to ensure uniformity, formulate the accounting policies of the Federal Government. It also handles loans servicing and public debt management;
The office also manages all the Federal Pay Offices (FPOs) in the 36 states of the Federation. The office has six offices, one in each of geo-political zones of the country coordinating the activities of the Federal Pay Offices in the zone.