Ahmed Idris: Improving Transparency in Treasury Management

Just about when he was one year in office as the Accountant General of the Federation, Alhaji Ahmed Idris left no one in doubt that he had deliberately chosen to sing the transparency and accountability ‘anthem’ wherever and whenever the occasion demands. He has carved a niche for the Treasury  to the extent that due process has become the order of the day.

In one of his earlier outings within the period under review, precisely when officers of the Nigerian Navy were on a four-week training programme on financial management at the Federal Treasury Academy, Orozo, Abuja. He urged the accountants and finance officers in government establishments, including those in the military to strictly comply with government financial regulations, adding that it was the only way to avoid humiliations in and after the public service.

Hear him: “As you young officers are desirous to contribute your quota to the development of Nigeria, I urge you to put into practice what you have learnt at this school, so that government policies on financial management, which is to ensure prudence, transparency and accountability can be realized.”

He however enjoined the officers to take a cue from the ongoing fight against corruption, where well respected serving and retired officers are being called to answer for their actions in the past, urging them not to be over ambitious, but to observe the ethics and professional dictates of their jobs.

There is no doubt that there have been numerous attacks from state governments and other stakeholders in the past arising from opaqueness and non-accountability in the management of government finances. Alhaji Ahmed Idris took the bull by the horn and delivered a template through the Finance Ministry to the NACOFED Team at Abeokuta 2016 on the way forward to end the perennial arguments between the state and the federal government on equitable sharing of the nation’s resources, notably, the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee(FAAC).

For the fact that the present administration’s mantra is tackling corruption in all its ramifications, transparency and openness are nonetheless key and the campaign has permeated the very fabric of the office of the Accountant General of the Federation.

In his recent interview with the Economic Confidential in Abuja, he had this to say: “It is a desire to institute discipline, good governance and trust. The government cannot be trusted if it says one thing and does another. The meager revenue that has been accruing is being judiciously used and there is fiscal discipline in management of public resources”.

How transparent can the government be when all revenues accruing at any point in time is shown at all meetings of the National Economic Council where all the Governors will be present. Idris said: “Whatever revenue comes in is shown at National Economic Council meetings including all the governors who will be briefed by the Minister of Finance. They have seen the openness and have accepted what government has put in place and the economic team. This is why we are achieving remarkable success amidst recession.”

The provision of adequate and timely information about government finances has been the deliverables of the Chief Treasury officer of the Federation. “The extent to which the public is availed of this information determines the level of trust the managers enjoy. Therefore, the need for a transparent public financial management cannot be over-emphasized.  Indeed, it is an essential ingredient for democracy and good governance.

As the steward of the nation’s funds, it is expected to constantly provide adequate, current information to the public on its activities, so says Ifeanyi Okereke in one of his recent write-ups on transparency and accountability in management of public finances.

The entrenchment of Treasury Single Account (TSA) and Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) are some of the tools deployed by the government in ensuring transparency and accountability in public finance.

TSA is a government policy introduced due to obvious shortcomings in the system. In the previous regime, revenues were not accruing the way they should. There were also leakages even in the little that was coming in. There were borrowings associated with multiplicity of banks accounts being operated by ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs). The government felt there was need to bring sanity. Explaining more on the development, the Accountant General gave a vivid and clear-cut example of some universities in the country. Some of these Universities had before now over twenty bank accounts with huge balances!  Rhetorically, he said why will one university have over one hundred and twenty bank accounts, and some of them even hidden and missing and carrying huge balances.

On the IPPIS, it was introduced to enhance savings on personnel costs. It helps the government to remove names of those who are not supposed to be in the payroll.  It has exposed ghost workers in various institutions of the public sector of the economy including the military, para-military, police, hospitals, and even Universities.

Aside the discourse on the transparency and accountability stance of the AGF, it will be totally impracticable if there are no trained and dedicated workforce, including a wholesome welfare package to implement laudable programmes as espoused by the AGF.

The welfare of the staff of the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation is one of his cardinal objectives since he assumed office.  According to him, It is even a core objective as managers of the treasury.  He left no one in doubt that welfare promotes the best out of the staff apart from making them serve the system very well.   The office has done pretty well in the provision of brand new staff buses sourced from public spirited organizations including banks, as the AGF stylishly maximizes the opportunity created by the private sector on Corporate Social Responsibility(CSR).

Meanwhile, he embarked in renovation of facilities and provision of infrastructure including auditorium and sporting facilities among others at the Federal Treasury Academy, Orozo. Majority of staff of the OAGF have testified on this noble development made possible by the amiable AGF.

 

Labaran Saleh

Wuye District, Abuja

[email protected]

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