Local Governments, the third tier of government in Nigeria, are statutory creations. They derived their powers from the constitution just like the other two levels of government, namely: Federal and State governments. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of 1979 (as amended to date) requires a local government to participate in economic planning and developments of the its area. Local governments (Basic Constitutional and Transitional Provisions) Decree No. 15 of 1989, and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of 1989 have similar requirements.
Essentially, local governments exist to cater for local public needs. As Haruna (1972 p. 224) puts it ‘the raison d’etre for creating local government bodies is to cater for local public wants; he then argued that local governments need to spend money to accomplish this goal. The money which local governments spend is derived largely from Federal and State statutory allocations. They also generate some revenues internally. These amounts (internally generated revenues and statutory allocations) are considered to be very substantial. To ensure an optimal use of these revenues, it has been argued by Nuhu (1972 p. 245) that there is the need for effective and equally honest public expenditure control.
The control over expenditure of local governments could be classified into two broad categories namely: internal controls (controls emanating from within the local government) and external controls (controls emanating from outside the local government). These controls are not substitutes, both are complements. Nuhu (1972 p. 251) stress the importance of the internal and external controls in the following words: “The exercise of suitable form of internal and external controls over local authority finance is of importance to efficient financial management”.
External controls over expenditure of local governments are exercised by the State government. The State government derived the power to exercise these controls from section 7(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of 1979 (as amended) section 7(10) and 123(3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of 198 and section 1(9) and (10) of the local government (Basic Constitutional and Transitional Provision) Decree No. 15 of 1989.
Local governments are required to submit their annual budgets to the State government for consideration and approval. The financial regulations applying to local governments usually tagged “Financial Memorandum” are formulated and handed over to the local government by the State governments. The local governments do not have exclusive power to regulate and control their expenditures. There is even the need for increased State government controls over local spending because of mismanagement of council’s fund by council members and officials (Haruna 1972 p. 234).
The internal controls which originate from within the local government include budgetary control, accounting system and control, supervision by the finance committee and internal audit.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
The problem necessitating this study is the making of allegations of illegal expenditure by local government officials. Freedman and Lynn (1974 p. 220) defined illegal expenditures as comprising of over-spending of appropriations, spending for illegal purposes, use of improper methods and procedures and unwise or inappropriate expenditures.
One of such general allegations was well documented by Onyia (1990, p.1): “There have been rumblings and murmurs from Local Government Areas of high degree of corrupt practices unprecedented in the history of Local Government. Reports of accounting clerks making away with huge chunks of money abound. Disturbing reports that revenue staff print their own rate tickets or run private Motor Park are received”.
I have been privileged to receive oral reports from a couple of local government staff; The reports bear virtually the same contents of allegations of illegal spending of local government funds.
It is my belief that these allegations are worth investigating vis-à-vis the controls designed for handling local government expenditures. The reason is that any allegation of budgetary offences (i.e. illegal expenditure) is an allegation of the ineffectiveness of the controls over local government expenditures.
- OBJECTIVE OF THE STUDY
This study is aimed at:
(a) Investigating, examining, reviewing critically the controls over expenditures of local governments
(b) Determining whether expenditure controls in the local government are adequate to prevent and reveal illegal spending.
(c) Suggesting ways of improving expenditure control system in the local government.
- RESEARCH QUESTION
This study will provide answer to the question: Do illegal expenditures exist in our local governments, and if so why and how? This main question can be determined by asking the following questions and providing answers to them in this work:
(a) Is the expenditure control system in the local governments adequate to prevent and detect over-spending of vote?
(b) Is the expenditure control system in the local governments adequate to prevent and detect spending for illegal purposes?
(c) Is the expenditure control system in the local governments adequate to prevent the use of improper procedures?
- RELEVANCE AND JUSTIFICATION OF STUDY
In an answer to a question on what research need to be done in non-business organizations (Bird 1981 p. 337) quoted two other participants in a seminar as saying “Almost anything, our ignorance is too profound…” This shows the extent to which research in accounting and financial management in the public sector had not been given adequate attention. As Tomkins (1981 p. 323) put it, “very few academic in the accounting area have been interested in studying the financial control processes of local governments authority”.
This study will benefit the following:
(a) The State government in reviewing and up-dating the financial memoranda for local governments.
(b) The local governments in overhauling their expenditure control system.
(c) Research in the field of governmental accounting and financial management.
The justification for this work is as follows:
(a) Local governments possess some characteristics which differ from those of other organizations so that they throw up expenditure control problems which are not normally encountered in other organizations.
(b) Certain aspect of controls over expenditure which are common to all organization need to be studied in the context of local governments.
(c) All performance measurement criteria for local governments rely to a greater extent on amount expended by local governments in discharging their functions. According to Jones and Pendlebury (1987 p. 15) “Public sector organizations are frequently faced with a lack of suitable output measurement and therefore input consumed are often used as a measurement of effectiveness” in the light of this, expenditure of local governments must be subjected to rigorous control procedures.
(d) The amount that local governments spend yearly constitute a significant proportion of the national income and hence the need for proper and adequate control over these spending.
As Haruna (1972 p. 220) put it “total local authority spending as a percentage of total public spending is amiss and is capable of creating distortion in the national economy”.
- THE DELIMITATION AND LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY
The research was on controls over the expenditure of Nigerian local governments. Other systems of controls which exist in the local governments will only be dealt with to the extent that they affect expenditure controls. One local government has been selected as the case study.
The expenditure control procedures and system would be investigated, examined, analyzed and evaluated to enable the study achieve its aims. The system of investigation and analysis which are to be employed are “unlikely to penetrate the Vail of human interaction, professional defensiveness and political maneuver (Tomkins 1981 p. 334) suggested a multi-disciplinary research realm and the introduction of new methods into accounting which place greater reliance upon the analysis of quantitative rather than qualitative data. The suggested collaboration with researchers from other discipline is obviously impossible in the case of this study. Reliance will have to be placed on analysis of quantitative data. The depth of the study will depend to some extent on the availability of primary data (which will be function of the co-operations enjoyed from the local governments staff and officials) there is the tendency for the local authority officials to understand the job of the researcher as another form of audit.
This study also depends on the important deadline to be met, i.e, the time for the completion and submission of the work. Other limitations include financial resources at the disposal of the researcher.