Accountant-General of the Federation

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Delivering on his mandate

Mr Ahmed Idris: Accountant-General of the Federation

Mr Ahmed Idris: Accountant-General of the Federation

WHEN Mr Ahmed Idris was appointed as the Accountant-General of the Federation (AGF) by President Muhammadu Buhari on June 25, 2015, he was given a mandate to instil transparency, accountability and probity in the control and monitoring of the nation’s public financial management system, through effective accounting system, leveraging on people and technology.

A thoroughbred accountant with over 20 years experience in public financial management, Mr Idris hit the ground running from day one, implementing reforms aimed at creating a world-class public financial management system, ensuring transparency and accountability of government receipts and payments. The AGF says the reforms are in line with the anti-corruption stance of the Buhari administration which has earned it domestic and international accolades.

Some of the reforms which were already being implemented and Mr Idris is effectively driving their execution, as the chief accounting officer responsible for the overall management of all receipts and payments of the Federal of the Republic of Nigeria in the past 15 months include the Treasury Single Account (TSA) scheme, the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS), the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) Accrual basis ,and the Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS).

TSA scheme

The Treasury Single Account (TSA) scheme is perhaps the most prominent of the reforms implemented by the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation (OAGF). The policy, aimed at consolidating various government accounts in one singe account with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), was initially proposed under the previous administration but was not implemented until August 2015 when President Buhari directed all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to comply with the scheme unfailingly by September 15, 2015. Since then, the OAGF has ensured that all MDAs keyed into the TSA.

With the TSA, all the MDAs which in the past operated multiple, and in some cases other fraudulent accounts are no longer able to do so. The policy has ensured that government has a bird’s eye view of its resources, but also allowed a paper trail of all transactions; payments, receipts, signatories and purpose of transactions. The policy has plugged revenue leakages and improved the public procurement process. Indeed, analysts believe that TSA may turn out to be the saving grace for Nigeria in this era of falling economic fortune occasioned by the dwindling price of crude oil in the international market. This is because its implementation has boosted government’s revenue. In the first quarter of 2016, about N3 trillion inflows into the TSA were recorded. This achievement is significant for Nigeria’s economic recovery effort. It is a bold attempt at stifling corruption and effectively mobilising government revenue while reinforcing the government’s narrative of no longer business-as-usual. The policy has also ensured that government takes effective aggregate control of its cash flow which has aided project planning.

The AGF, while itemizing the reasons for adoption of TSA, says that the need to stem financial haemorrhage and plug all loopholes informed government’s decision to implement the TSA. According to him, TSA would mark the beginning of the end of massive borrowing in Nigeria. Mr. Idris says he has vigorously pursued the implementation of the TSA as part of Federal Government’s policy to have a firm grip on the financial position and efficient allocation and utilisation of resources.

To encourage the 36 state governments of Nigeria to key into the TSA scheme, the AGF had early this year organised a one-day TSA sensitization workshop for states’ accountants-general in Abuja, in collaboration with World Bank.

IPPIS platform

Another key reform being driven by the AGF is the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS).  Basically, the IPPIS is designed to transform the Nigerian public service, improve the management of human resources and provide a centralized payroll system for the service. The AGF has been working relentlessly to ensure that the scheme was extended to the MDAs.  Already, more than 477 MDAs are on the IPPIS including all core ministries, medical and allied health institutions as well as agencies under the Ministry of Science and Technology, among others. The OAGF has extended the scheme to the Nigeria Police Force, the Nigerian Prisons, Nigeria Immigration Service, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, and the Federal Fire Services. Others include the military (Army, Navy and Air Force); and all federal tertiary institutions (universities, polytechnics and colleges of education); as well as agencies in the petroleum sector.

Government has saved about N220 billion from the IPPIS since inception even as it plans to extend it to outstanding MDAs before the end of the year. Over 65,000 ghost workers have been weeded out of the public payroll through the platform while 23,000 workers have been stopped from collecting multiple salaries. This has resulted in a savings of N8 billion monthly for government.

IPSAS accrual-based accounting system

To further curb corruption, revamp the accounting and reporting of government’s financial transactions and deepen transparency in the management of public funds, the OAGF adopted the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) accrual-based accounting standards in January 2016.

IPSAS are a set of accounting standards issued by the IPSAS Board for use by public sector entities around the world in the preparation of financial statements. These standards are based on International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). The implementation of IPSAS has placed Nigeria in a global stage as far as presentation and preparation of accounts is concerned. It is  noteworthy that Mr Idris, the AGF was appointed into the International Public Sector Accounting Standards Board Consultative Advisory Group based in Canada (IPSABB-CAG) vide a letter by James Gunn, the Managing Director, Professional Standards IPSABB on 8/4/16, for his transparent and passion − for excellence − driven Leadership of the Nigeria’s Treasury. Following the appointment, Mr Idris dedicated it to the present administration which is majorly anti-corruption driven.

Rudiments of GIFMIS

The Government Integrated Financial and Management Information System (GIFMIS) is another financial reform initiated by the Nigerian fiscal authorities. It entails using a computerized Financial Management Information System for the Federal Government which is efficient, effective as well as user-friendly.

Since its implementation, the GIFMIS has helped in all aspects of budget preparation, execution and management of government financial resources.  All steps in the expenditure cycle including, budget appropriations, financing limits, commitments, verification and payment transactions are recorded and managed through the system. The system is serving as a modern, efficient and user-friendly facility, providing comprehensive information on all the financial affairs of the government.  Indeed, it acts as a reliable basis for multi-year budgeting, annual budgeting, commitment control, payment control, financial and cash management and economic planning.

Auditing of federal parastatals and agencies

In line with the Federal Government’s agenda of institutionalizing fiscal discipline, transparency, probity and accountability in the management of public finances, the OAGF recently embarked on the Process Audit of federal parastatals and agencies. Mr Idris says the audit would enable government assess the true state of its generation, capital and recurrent expenditure across the MDAs. However, as a stop-gap measure, government has ordered the audit of some MDAs that are yet to be integrated into the IPPIS. Specifically, the military payroll comprising the Army, Navy and Air Force and the Police payroll are undergoing audit, with a view to weeding out ghost workers. This will save government more money.

As part of efforts to accelerate 2016 budget implementation, the government has asked MDAs to submit priority project list for ongoing and new projects for immediate funding. Ministers are urged to advise permanent secretaries to immediately commence procurement process towards ensuring effective implementation of the budget. MDAs have been advised to advertise and invite bids for projects costing less than N100 million for goods and services and N300 million for works with the aim of streamlining procurement procedures that will reduce processing time by at least 35 days.

Streamlining recurrent expenditure is vital to the improvement in capital spending. To this end, the Buhari administration has pruned down wasteful expenses such as first class travel and private jets for official trips. This, in addition to the exorcised ghost workers, has seen significant improvement in savings and capital spending. But the government is not stopping there. It has inaugurated a tax committee to overhaul the entire tax system in the country. The Joint Tax Board comprising the Federal Inland Revenue Service and all states revenue authorities is working to harmonize taxes across the country. The intention is to codify and harmonize all taxes, boost revenue as well as improve the ease of doing business in the country.

In diversifying revenue sources, government is looking at hitherto neglected revenue areas. The administration is targeting foreign investment profits for revenue. With many investments abroad yielding dividends, it is only natural for government to collect dividends running into millions of dollars. Dividends accruing from some of the investments have not been received for a while due to failed policies of previous administrations which focused only on oil-derived revenue.

Mr Idris is upbeat that the financial reforms so far being driven by his office have enhanced the quality and quantity of  financial services delivered to Nigerians by improving the efficiency and effectiveness of public financial management process. He says that government will continue to focus on modernization (including communication) of systems and strengthen the capability for utilizing and maintaining information technology for financial management to increase the timeliness, quality and reliability of financial data on receipts and payment.

It is also noteworthy that the AGF has placed a lot of premium in capacity building of the officers who are managing these reforms. The upgrade of the Federal Treasury Academy, Orozo is vigorously being pursued.

It is believed that the Nigerian treasury under the very professional and results-oriented leadership of Mr Ahmed Idris, FCNA, is eminently positioned as well as effectively and efficiently delivering on its statutory mandate even as a lot of mileage is being recorded presently in the financial management reforms.

 

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