THE IMPACT OF PUBLIC ACCOUNTANT IN THE IMPLEMENTATION OF ACCOUNTABILITY, PROBITY AND TRANSPARENCY IN THE FEDERAL CIVIL SERVICES
1.1 Background of the Study
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;
(i) The effective use of public accounts;
(ii) The use of effective legislation;
(iii) The effective implementation of government policies and programmes;
(iv) 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 profession produce the final output. The same goes for other facets of the economy as indicated above. The military system of administration should be thrown to the winds as we have evolved democracy like other developed countries of the world such as United State of America, United Kingdom etc. It was in an attempt to analyze the import of the president’s address on the 29th May, 1999 that this topic, “the impact of accountant in the implementation of accountability, probity and transparency in the federal civil service” comes to mind.
1.2 Statement of the Problems
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. What ever 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.
1.3 The Objective of the Study
i. To determine the degree of implementation of accountability transparency and probity in the public sector especially in the state and federal civil service.
ii. To determine the best way to improve on accountability, transparency and probity in Nigeria economy.
iii. To determine the actual role of the public accountants in the implementation of this programme;
iv. To determine whether public accountant in collaboration with their chief executives utilize judiciously all the allocations made from the budget.
1.4 Significance of the Study
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 accountability, probity and transparency of the present administration. “Nigeria” for the purpose of this paper means” the Federal Republic of Nigeria including any area outside the territorial waters of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which in accordance with international law has been or may hereafter be designated under the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria concerning the continental shelf, as an area within which the rights of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with respect to the sea-bed and subsoil and their natural resources may be exercised”.Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999).
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.
1.5 Research Hypothesis
Ho: Public accountants in collaboration with their directors (including principals) utilize judiciously all the allocations made available to them.
Hi: Public accountants in collaboration with their directors (including principals) do not utilize judiciously all the allocation made available to them.
The testing of the hypothesis can be carried out through the use of the draft of the federal government of Nigeria 1999, a year 2000 budget estimate on recurrent and capital expenditure using unity school’s allocation in the south-east geo-political zones on personnel cost and overhead cost respectively. A study carried out shows that a total sum of one hundred and fifty million, six hundred and fifty thousand and twenty four naira (N150, 650,024.00) was allocated to the ten (10) unity schools in the south east geo political zone in 1999 as against one hundred and seventy six million and seventy two thousand five hundred and eighty naira (N176, 072,508.00) in year 2000. Yet each of this schools had one problem or the other in the payment of teachers and non-teaching staff salaries and allowances as at when due. In overhead cost, a total sum of fourteen million seven hundred and twenty two thousand two hundred and twenty two naira twenty kobo. (14,722,222,20) was allocated in nineteen ninety nine as opposed to seventeen million and thirteen thousand eight hundred and eight naira eight kobo. (17,013,888.80) in the year 2000 (reference table C and D in chapter four). But this research discovered that most of the staff who where engage in official journey to their headquarters have not received their duty tour allowances and other claims on flimsy reason that funds were not available.
1.6 Scope and Limitations 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 accountability, transparency and probity. Traditionally, and in common usage, the term accountability means answerability for one’s action and behaviour within the emphasis that public officials should be legally required to be answerable to the public for their stewardship. For purposes of this thesis, the author wishes to confine himself to financial accountability which is normally associated with stewardship accounting. This simply refers to rendering the accounts of the affairs of any organization or enterprise to the owners of the resources of the enterprise. In the public service, financial accountability relates to the right of the owners of the public wealth (tax payers and the general public) to question whether those entrusted with the application of such wealth have done so, with the greatest possible degree of efficiency, effectiveness, probity and prudence to achieve broadly accepted national goals, (Iwok (2000). While accountability implies a compulsion on the part of those who are custodians of public wealth to give account to their trustees; those who act in that capacity should recognize the obligation to submit inquiry concerning their stewardship; such recognition and the willingness and readiness to submit inquiry or examination bring about the concept of transparency. To confirm that the activities of the stewards are clean and without doubt they must be certified as true and fair by the trustee of his appointment agent who should be of proven integrity.
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Budget office (2000): Year 2000 Budget Estimate on Recurrent and Capital Expenditure. Abuja: Federal Ministry of Finance.
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Iwok, E.R (2000): “Accountability and Transparency in Stewardship”. An Address Presented at Year 2000 Cross-River State Branch of ANAN End of Year dinner.
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Olusegun O. (1999): “Mr. Presidents’ maiden address to the nation after his swearing – in ceremony”: an address presented to the nation at eagles square, Abuja, on 29th may 1999.