ENHANCING FINANCIAL ACCOUNTABILITY AND TRANSPARENCY IN NIGERIAN PUBLIC SECTOR

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ENHANCING FINANCIAL ACCOUNTABILITY AND TRANSPARENCY IN NIGERIAN PUBLIC SECTOR (A case study of selected Public Sector Organizations in Enugu State)

ABSTRACT

The Nigerian public sectors like their counterparts in the private sector have neglected fundamental principles that should be adhered to in ensuring accountability and transparency in their various sectors. This research work is aimed at looking at the various ways in which the Accounting officers: – Chief Executives, Accountants, Auditors and in fact the Financial controllers in our country help to enhance financial accountability and transparency in the public sector. A framework for understanding the relationships between the major financial administrators and their subordinates in Public sector financial accountability and transparency was established. A questionnaire, interviews and research methodology was adopted for this research. Each question was examined as a whole to obtain an understanding of the opinions and perspectives of the respondents from each individual, organization as to what are considered to be the important factors in this study. Then, chi-square was used to test the five hypothesis propounded. The results suggested avenues of enhancing financial accountability and Transparency in the public sector. The major findings from the survey are: (1) Public Financial Managers do not enhance the implementation of financial accountability and transparency in the Nigerian public sector. (2) Financial accountability and transparency is not yet improved in the Nigerian public sector and. (3) Public financial managers do not adhere to the laid down rules for the management of accountability and transparency in the Nigerian public sector. Finally the research concluded with the following major recommendations: The Nigerian value system must be changed so as to stamp out dishonesty and the use of double standard in handling government matters and that Regular workshops, seminars and trainings should be organized on regular basis for those public accountants who rose through the ranks. This will make them fit into the accounting duties properly.

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1       BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY

Grand corruption is a cancer that has eaten deep into the fabric of the Nigerian polity. The general global perception about graft in Nigeria is that it is a pervasive phenomenon. It is generally acknowledged that corruption and corrupt practices are endemic and systemic in both the public and private sectors of Nigeria. Corruption has surely had debilitating effects on the country as it has had elsewhere. It is encountered in the routine processes of governance both in public and private sectors, and it pollutes the business environment generally. It equally undermines the integrity of government and public institutions.

Nigerian poverty in the midst of plenteous natural resources is as a result of bad leadership, Leadership without skill and character. In formal democracy bad leadership is to a long extent a product of flawed electoral system. So an incredible electoral system is the beginning of poor leadership. Thus good governance is identified as a critical ingredient of political stability. However at the heart of good governance i.e. transparent governance is accountability. That is the idea that the governed retain the real opportunity to know what the governors do and call them to order when they derail. A country’s journey towards good governance in reality is measured by how much the management of the public policy is open to the scrutiny of the people the people are always disconnected with the leaders because of the institutional deficiencies of liberal democracy. The culture of accountability and its institutions are strong protection against conflicts and instability.

Nigeria like the rest of African countries is caught in cusps of many conflicts including conflicts over political power. The real nature of political conflicts in these societies is that the norms and procedures for attributing between varying claims to power are incapable of restraining the tendency the overall system. Conflicts over access to political power are compounded by the oil economy which has created the resource course as a content of corruption, means that most politicians are interested in access to political powers as a pretext for access to the resources tap, weak accountability framework therefore makes it easy for leaders to gain personal control of public fund and utilize same for personal needs. The main problem with Democracy in Nigeria is lack of accountability and transparency, both cannot be easily separated.

From a relatively mild manifestation at Nigeria’s independence, this cancer grew rapidly at an alarming rate through the Second Republic (1979-1983). During the epoch of military misrule, it became institutionalized and assaulted every facet of Nigerian socio-political life. In the words of Gboyega (1996:3), “it was as if the government existed so that corruption might thrive”. Corruption have accounted for the distortion and diversion of government welfare programmes and undermined the goals and vision of development. Indeed, it has continued to undermine the effectiveness of the political process, especially the capacity of the elections management body, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to achieve and institutionalize free and fair elections.

Accountability is a concept deeply rooted in political power and democracy. It is the bridge linking the People or the electorate with the Executive to whom enormous power has been entrusted. Accountability is the public servants report card on how public money is spent and used on behalf of the people. It therefore goes without saying that the notion of accountability and good governance are very connected. In fact, the first evidence of bad governance is the absence of accountability. In other words, it means saying what you mean, meaning what you say and doing what you say you are going to do – taking responsibility for words and actions.

Transparency and accountability are critical for the efficient functioning of a modern economy and for fostering social well-being. In most societies, many powers are delegated to public authorities. Some assurance must then be provided to the delegators that is, society at large that this transfer of power is not only effective, but also not abused. Transparency ensures that information is available that can be used to measure the authorities’ performance and to guard against any possible misuse of powers. In that sense, transparency serves to achieve accountability, which means that authorities can be held responsible for their actions. Without transparency and accountability, trust will be lacking between a government and those whom it governs. The result would be social instability and an environment that is less than conducive to economic growth.

Accountability is therefore the requirement that officials answer to stakeholders and publics on the disposal of their powers and duties, act and criticisms or requirement made of them and accept some responsibility.

Accountability is an ethical concept – It concerns proper behavior, and it deals with the responsibility of individuals and organizations for their actions towards other people and agencies. The concept is used in practical settings, notably in describing arrangements for governance and management in public services and private organizations. The term is often used synonymously with concepts of transparency, liability, answerability and other ideas associated with the expectation of account giving.

Accountability has two (2) forms. There is Vertical Accountability – which is the accountability of government to the voting public through the ballot box. This is closely allied with the capacity of the electorate to remove a government that fails to account to them or deliver services. It assumes the existence of a political culture where the individuals vote counts. The other form of accountability is Horizontal Accountability – which is the accountability of government institutions to anti-corruption and anti-graft agencies. It also includes the accountability of the public sector to statutory auditing agencies; oversight committees of the state assemblies and the National Assembly; human rights agencies and the media. From the foregoing, it is clear accountability is basically a feature of democratic governance. It is characterized by answerability and openness.

Accountability requires a system to monitor and control the performance of government officers and organizations particularly in relation to quality inefficiencies and abuse of resources. Financial accountability and transparency are interrelated concepts and mutually reinforcing a more effective approach to address the challenge of corruption in Nigeria.

According to MSN Encarta, Transparency is a state or quality of being transparent.  Transparency in its broadest term literally means something that can be seen through. Therefore when we talk of             Transparency in terms of government spending, we are referring to government at all levels opening its books to the public so that tax payers can see exactly where the money is going or being spent. It also ensures that the citizens’ funds are spent efficiently by making all decisions in the open and on the record.

Transparency means that citizens can review and question policy makers’ decisions, examine document root out inefficiency and hold officials accountable for the way revenue are spent.

Therefore, transparency is characterized by the following – a disclosure system; access to information; openness to public participation; absence of undue secrecy; readiness to face and accommodate legitimate scrutiny and humility on the part of Executive office holders through readiness to answer questions raised by citizens. Transparency is impossible or very difficult where freedom of or access to public information is not guaranteed in law or statute.

 

The issue of financial accountability and transparency in Nigeria is one that cannot be readily             grossed over, since they constitute pivotal features of a respectable government. Besides grand corruption that has eaten deep into the fabric of the Nigerian economy. It is generally acknowledged that corruption and corrupt practices are endemic and systematic fraud, corruption and the likes have seriously affected the level of accountability and transparency in Nigeria. The cry of the majority of the common man had been, “What is the problem of the financial management system” that government officials can defraud the local, state or national treasury and not held accountable until their regimes have ceased to exist.

In the recent years, fraudulent activities, economic mismanagement, corruption, lack of accountability and transparency have been the bane of the economy. More so, it is evidenced and undoubted that crimes such as embezzlement, over invoicing, cyber crimes, fraudulent and over production and diversion of product, currency counterfeiting, illegal capital transfer, illegal currency manipulation, large scale banking and corporate crime have now dented Nigerians international image and tagged her a financial terrorist consequent upon this the federal government adopted a strategy to extinguish completely its further perpetration.

In 2003, President Olusegun Obasanjo established the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) prior to the promulgation in 2002 by an act of the National Assembly. The EFCC acts as law enforcement Agency to investigate financial crimes such as advance fraud (419 frauds) and money laundering. The EFCC investigates people in all sectors who appear to be living above their means and is empowered to investigate and prosecute money laundering and other financial crimes. The EFCC was later amended in 2004 to sanitize the Nigerian Economic environment by enforcing all economic and financial crime laws. In June 2009, the Senate Committee on Drugs, Narcotics and anti-corruption moved to amend the act by setting up the Independence Corrupt practices Commission (ICPC). Both the EFCC and ICPC was to act independent of the Executives

Corruption and looting of public treasury was a major problem in the public sector accounting. Report from office of statistics Lagos show that our accounting records are balanced in arrears and our financial records are hardly balanced daily, weekly, quarterly, half-yearly and yearly basis as appropriate. This was evidenced by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo during his first maiden address to the nation immediately he was sworn-in as the President of the federal republic of Nigeria on the 29th day of May 1999. He stressed that accountability, probity and transparency has suffered a lot set-back especially in the civil service. He therefore suggested that some of the best ways to eliminate this ill in the Nigerian public service are;

  • The effective use of public accounts;
  • The use of effective legislation;
  • The effective implementation of government policies and programmes;
  • The effective use of auditors of the federal republic of Nigeria among others.

He therefore concluded by saying “when we consider how the public accounting and auditing can grow and develop, we are concerned not only with helping the public accountant or the auditor fill their position, but also with helping the whole economy and the organizational structure grow and develop” (Obasanjo). The concept should therefore make it wise for us to look more closely at the relationship between Nigeria and other countries of the world. And for Nigeria to be recognized as a corrupt-free economy, the accounting profession must be in a position to balance the financial records of the federal government daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, half yearly or yearly basis. This is because members of the public and the international community want to see results, see the economy grow and the professions produce the final output.

 

  • Statement of the Problem:

Public sector accounting in a corrupt society is a very big problem to the economy of the nation. This is because the financial records do not reflect the true and fair view of the accounting records. There are lots of collaborations in the utilization of public funds to the extent that funds allocated through the budget are not properly utilized. The annual for the public (government) income and expenditure are at times late. Whatever is the position with timeless of delivery, these budget are never reviewed in time and deviations are not investigated to ensure prompt remedial action which will re-direct and re-orientate plans towards budgeted levels.

Another shortcoming is the threat to continually of production of qualified accountants who will replace older retiring hands. This systems form a number of factors like inadequate infrastructures (for example, training materials, computers, library facilities etc) necessary for such programmes. This point drives to a large extent from the very poor and unrealistic remuneration paid to the practicing accountant in form of salary.

Public accountants are placed on government determined salary scales, unlike their professional chartered counterparts whose fees for auditing and other professional services rendered are self determined. The implication of the forgoing deliberation is that while a professional body like Institute of Chartered Accountant and its various programmes aimed at monitoring more closely the curriculum of their counter-parts in the government employment are poorly taken care of.

Another shortcoming is the quota system in the federal service. The quota system has introduced mediocre and unethical practices in the accounting profession. In a bid to fill in vacant positions in the federal civil services, most of the unqualified personnel (mainly from certain ethnic group of the country) are employed to the detriment of the job, hence giving loopholes for embezzlement and financial misappropriation. Merits were thrown to the winds.

In fact, meritocracy has given way to mediocrity. All this, helped the administrators and some members of the society to look down on the accountants as mere “house helps” and “rubber stamp” in the system.

 

  • The Objective of the Study:

The principal objective of this research is targeted towards determining the ways of enhancing financial accountability and transparency in the Nigerian Public Sector. The objectives of the study can be sub divided as stated below:

  1. To determine the degree of implementation of financial accountability and transparency in the public sector especially in the federal civil service.
  2. To determine the best way to improve on financial accountability, and transparency in Nigeria Public Sector.
  3. To determine the actual role of the public financial managers in the enhancement of financial accountability, and transparency in Nigeria Public Sector.
  4. To determine whether public accountant in collaboration with their chief executives utilize judiciously all the allocations made from the budget.
  5. To supervise the extent at which the financial controllers or Supervisors checkmate the Executives who the funds are allotted to.

 

 

  • Research Questions:

The research question is poised to provide answers to the following questions.

  1. Do the financial managers enhance the implementation of financial accountability and transparency in the public sector?
  2. Are their ways of improvement in financial accountability and transparency in the Nigerian public sector?
  3. Do public financial managers adhere strictly to the laid down rules for the management of accountability and transparency in the Nigerian public sector?
  4. Do public financial managers and their Executives utilize judiciously all the allocations made from the budget?
  5. Do the Supervisors adequately checkmate the activities of the financial managers and the Executives?

 

 

  • Research Hypothesis:

HO1 –    Public Financial Managers do not enhance the implementation of financial accountability and transparency in the Nigerian public sector.

HO2 –    financial accountability and transparency is not yet improved in the Nigerian public sector.

HO3 –    Public financial managers do not adhere to the laid down rules for the management of accountability and transparency in the Nigerian public sector.

HO4 –    Public Financial Managers and their Executives do not utilize judiciously all the allocations made from the budget.

HO5 –    The Financial Controllers or the Supervisors do not adequately checkmate the activities of the financial managers and the Executives.

 

 

  • Significance of the Study:

The significance of this study can be viewed from two major standpoints – practical and academic

  1. Practical Significance:

This study will be of immense help to the policy makers in the federal civil service of Nigeria who will be able to know and assert the adequate role of the public accountant in the service with a view to showing up the programmes of financial accountability and transparency of the government administration.

The policy makers should see the public accountants as playing the role of a coach who exposes the skills and tactics and allows the players to play the game. This is because in everything an individual or a group of individuals in varying professions, do, there is a reason and purpose. For example, in a private organization this reason or purpose is referred to as an objective or goal. Therefore, government (public service) whose realm of operation is popularly referred to as the public sector has as its objective the governance of her people. This implies the tremendous responsibility to grannies resources and allocates same towards fostering economic growth and improving the standard of living of the citizens of the nation. Again government is empowered by the laws of the land (constitution) to engage in contractual arrangements for the purpose of increasing the resources available to her in order to meet the requirements of governance, since it holds the wealth of her nation in trust for that nation. To this extent, the government of a nation owes her citizens the duty to account for the stewardship in the effective disposition of the resources entrusted to her (This is accountability).

For the government or the public sector to discharge her responsibility or stewardship effectively, there is the need to maintain proper records of the value of all programmes, activities and services, synthesize and analyze the effect of government financial transaction, classify, summarize and communicate such information for purposes of future decision-making or assessment of performance.

 

 

  1. b) Academic Significance

This study, its extensive literature review and recommendations it will contribute immensely to students, future researchers and academicians knowledge on the issue of enhancing financial accountability and transparency in the Nigerian Public Sector.

 

  • Scope of the Study:

This study attempts to establish (i) whether the directors of departments utilize judiciously all the allocations made available to them or not; and (ii) to examine the impact of public accountants in the implementation of financial accountability and transparency in the public Sector.

Sequel to this the researcher shall investigate some Federal Ministries and Parastatals in Enugu State. Five of such Federal Ministries and Parastatals were selected and the financial accountability and transparencies of their Executives and financial officers will be investigated.

 

  • Limitation of the Study:

As part of the research experience by researchers all over the globe, certain limitations and unforeseen problems hindered the effective and smooth collection of data for the work. These in specific terms include lack of time and difficulties in obtaining needed data relevant to the subject matter from top management; inadequate working fund; respondents’ poor altitude to questionnaire.

Time constraint: Time was really a big constraint in carrying out this research work as the researcher had to combine the collection of materials for the study with official government work, family and religious commitments other academic and social activities.

Financial constraints: The finance needed to carry out this work is too much and cannot be afforded by the student. Thus these to an extent hampered the success of this work.

Respondents Attitude: The Respondents as it is well known are not willing to divulge important information. Tracking of the Executives in their offices and their willingness to grant interviews due to their tight schedules all contributed.

 

  • Definition of Terms:

Corruption: This is the use of entrusted powers for private gain. This is the most common crime in the public service and takes many forms. For instance, a public official asking for, accepting bribe before carrying out any activity or asking for gratification after rendering a service and a public official diverting the ownership of government property. Other forms of corrupt activities include embezzlement, nepotism, bribery/kickbacks, extortion, illicit enrichment, questionable links between government agencies and private business etc. The perpetration of corruption in the public service is facilitated through the use of money, valuable goods or gifts, favours, promises etc.

The incidence of corruption is primarily a function of greed facilitated on the strength of the incentives, range and scale of opportunities, availability of means and the risks of punishment.

Corruption is propelled by bad governance where controls are weak and decision-making is opaque, arbitrary and lacking in accountability.

 

Embezzlement: This is the fraudulent appropriation by a person to his own use of property or money entrusted to that person’s care but owned by someone else. For instance, a clerk or cashier can embezzle money from his employer; a public officer can embezzle funds from the treasury. In embezzlement, an actual conversion must occur and the embezzler must have had the right to possess the item, and used that position of trust to convert the property.

Embezzlement sometimes involves falsification of records in order to conceal the theft. Embezzlement becomes much easier if one person is responsible for keeping track of billing, receiving and recording payments as well as managing accounts. Some of the most common methods of embezzlement are the under-reporting of income (especially for income generating public institutions) and the creation of ghost employees.

 

Bribery: This is the offering, giving, receiving or soliciting of something of value for the purpose of influencing the action of an official in the discharge of his or her public or legal duties. A bribe can consist of immediate cash or of personal favours, a promise of later payment, or anything else the recipient views as valuable.

 

Money Laundering: This is money that is made through illegal activities which needs to be placed into the Banking system so that it can be integrated into the economy and be made legitimate. Criminals have developed endless array of schemes in the process of converting ill gotten wealth from “dirty” to “clean” funds and the banks is in the potential for complicity and violation of money laundering prohibition requirements.

 

Fraud: The crime of deceiving somebody in order to collect money or goods illegally. It also means a person who pretends to have gifts and abilities, skills etc that he or she does not really have to receive others.

 

Investigation: – This means a special kind of examination of accounts or records carried on by an investigator with the predefined purpose according to the necessity of the situation (Chike Nwoha,:303, 33).

 

EFCC: This is an acronym for Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. It is a commission created by an act of the National assembly in 2002 and was amended in 2004. It is charged with the responsibility of investigating, and enforcement of crime, all laws against economic and financial crimes in its entire ramification. The commission is also designates to Nigeria Financial Intelligent Unit (NIFU) It is an autonomous central national agency, domiciled within EFCC with the responsibility of receiving and analyzing financial information

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