The impact of public accountant in the implementation of accountability,probity and transparency in the federal civil services



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REFERENCE:

Adie, I.I (1998) “Development in Public Sector Accounting” A Paper Presented at Annual Conference and Seminal of the Public Accountants and Auditors at Minna, August.


Agbebiye, H.A (2000) “the role of accounting profession in Nigerian development”. A lecture presented to the senior executive course No. 22 the national institute of policy and strategy studies Kuru, July.
Editorial column (2000); Accountant in the life of a Nation. The Nigerian Accountant Vol. 33, No. 4 Oct/Dec.
Fahm, A.A. (1998) “The Women public Accountant, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow”. A Paper Presented at the 5th Annual National Conference of the Executive Management Accountancy Association of Nigeria held at Shiroro Hotel Minna, August.
Federal Republic of Nigeria, (1999). The Constitutions of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Lagos: Times Press Ltd.
Federal Inland Revenue (1993) Information Circular on VAT. Abuja: Federal Inland Revenue Service.

CHAPTER THREE

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODOLOGY

INTRODUCTION

This research was designed with a view to finding out the impact of the public accountants in the implementation of accountability, probity and transparency in the federal civil service. By this, research work wishes to know the extent the public accountants have exposed civil servants to their rights and financial entitlements where they play a fool or ignorant of their rights and obligation s in the service.

However, various techniques or methods of data collection are used here to drive home, out point.

The first method employed in the course of collection of data research work was the use of questionnaire/research question. Questionnaire to a list of planned written questions structured with space provided for indicating answers or responses for each question which is intended for a number of people to rely. It is classified into yes (v) or No (x) true or false (x) and no idea/recognition type. This questionnaire as designed above was administered to:



  1. Civil servants of all ranks in the federal ministry of education, headquarters’, Abuja and

  2. Civil servants of all ranks in the office of the accountant-general of the federation, (OAGF), Federal Ministry of Financial Servants of each ministry making total of one hundred (100) civil servants. After the questionnaires were administered, all of them were successfully retrieved for analysis of their responses.

ANALYSIS OF TABLE. ONE

Item 1 Question

Yes

%

No

%

Total

Do public accountants actually influence economic achievement of their ministries/departments

80

80%

20

20%

100%

From the above responses 80% agree that public accountants actually influence the economic achievement of their ministries/departments, while 20% do not agree. Some of the respondents who disagree buttress their points by saying that a lazy public accountant will usually have his subordinates to all they required to learn in such a job with a view to achieving the goal of the ministry for period question.



ANALYSIS OF TABLE TWO

Item 2 Question

Above

%

Below average

%

Total

What was the average performance last financial year?

80

80%

20

20%

100%

From the above responses 80% agree that their performance in the past financial year after auditing their records and board of survey reports was above average while 20% do not agree. Some of the respondents who disagree buttress their points by saying that a situation where 80% of the public accountants in public sector accounting use money to influence their audit report as well as board of survey report does not indicate that the accountants in the public sector have done well or performed above average. Rather, if this percentage of public accountants had sail through audit reports without influencing the auditor, then their performances would have been deemed to be above average.



TABLE THREE

Item 3 Question

Yes

%

No

%

Total

Is this performance based on the prudent use of public funds or not?

70

70%

30

30%

100%

From table 3 above, seventy (70) respondents representing 70% agree that public accountant’s performances are based on the prudent use of public funds while 30% do not agree.



The 30% respondents disagree on the grounds that it is very rare to come by a public accountant who is prudent in the use of public funds. That it was only those who have made it pretend to be prudent in the management of public funds. They also held the opinion that their performances was parochial because they have not exposed the civil servants as to what their rights and entitlement are in the civil service.
TABLE FOUR

Item 4 Question

Yes

%

No

%

Total

Do all public accountants know this job or show interest in the job they do and the overall accounting profession?

100

100%

-

-

100%

From the table 4 above, all the respondents representing 100% agree that they show interest on the job, and in the overall accounting profession. They also agreed that majority of them who arose through the ranks as a result of on-the-spot training in various departments in the ministry tend to loose sight of the ethics of the profession. Hence the junk in the handling of the affairs of accounting duties. A case in point is a situation where a principals or co-ordinator or director will approve the payment of an officer’s claim, only for the bursar (public accountant) to turn it down on selfish reasons. Another was a situation where newly employed officers are denied of their financial rights because of their ignorance in the service.

TABLE FIVE

Item 5 Question

Yes

%

No

%

Total

Does the authorities reward a public accountant for his good performance in the service?

-

-

100%

100%

100%

From table 5 above, 100% of respondents agreed that authorities does not reward a good public accountant who is devoted and diligent to his duties. This lack of encouragement seems to demoralize and reduce the spirit of the hardworking public sector accountant and put the lazy ones into advantage. And this does not help the profession as well as the fresh subordinates in teaching and learning on the job. Hardworking public accountants should be encouraged at all cost to sustain their ability and value for the profession.

TABLE SIX

Item 6 Question

Yes

%

No

%

Total

Is the public accountant and workers relationship free and cordial?

50

50

50

50

100%

From the table 6 above, there equal divided opinion among the respondents. There was majority opinion that public sector accountants and workers relationship is free and cordial. The respondents on the negative side see all accountants in the system as “open robber” and wicked. They call the accountants all types of names, all in the negative.

Therefore something must be done to close this gap for effective performance and utmost good faith in the public sector and in the public interest.



TABLE SEVEN

Item 7 Question

Yes

%

No

%

Total

What do you do with poor achievers in your department or ministry?

30

30%

70

70%

100%

From the table seven above, a majority opinion of 70 respondent representing 70% indicate that poor achievers are talked down in the department, hence poor performance in the public sector. Take for instance those who found their way into accounts department through the quota system in the employment of labour in Nigeria federal civil service. Most of them are poorly brought up to the extent that distinguish the debit side from the credit side of a cash book is a very serious task. For most of the directors who are in charge of training to spend the vote on training of these set of people, they rather talk them down and end up using the vote to their selfish interest.

TABLE EIGHT

Item 8 Question

See his effort as a matter of cost

%

No

%

Total

What do you do with a public accountant who is doing well consistently in your department?

80

80%

20

20%

100%

From the above responses 80% agree that a public accountant who is doing will consistently in a ministry is not regarded, rather his effort are seen as matter course, while 20% feel that such an officer should be re-inforce. The latter is a better approach.

TABLE NINE

Item 9 Question

Ignore him

%

Punish him

%

Total

What do you do when an accountant fails to comply with a laid down financial regulation or do his home work well?

45

45%

55

55%

100%

From the above response 45% that when a public accountant fails to do his home work well that such an accountant should be ignored while 55% was of the opinion that such an accountant should be disciplined for failure to do his home assignment. Another reason for his discipline was because he represents the accountant general of the federation who is an expert in the use of public funds.

TABLE TEN

Item 10 Question

Yes

%

No

%

Total

Do you generate excitement method of teaching your subordinates?

30

30%

70

70%

100%

From the above responses, 70% fee, that public accountant does not generate excitement method of teaching their subordinates. This is because some of them are poorly equipped academically. Most of them do not pass through the professional training stages like diploma, treasury schools certificates and university degrees. They are not technically or academically equipped and end up not delivering the goods, hence their in ability to balance their accounts periodically as well as do their reconciliation of accounts well, while 30% try to generate exciting method of teaching their subordinates.

INTERVIEW

Interview method was another technique used in the course of this research work. Based on the reply to the interview granted me by the director, finance and accounts, office of the Auditor-General for the Federation, Abuja, it was gathered that accounting profession has overtime played a leading role in the economic development process of this nation; especially in record keeping, provision of financial information, internal control measures attestation function, tax function, trust and acceptability as well as other responsibilities to the society.

Record keeping: according to him, the passage of time and change in the economic and business environment has increased the expected role of any public accountant. Every accountant in both public and private sector is the hub of all information gathered and dissemination mechanism through their track records on the job. It is only through their proper keeping of record that government or private sector organizations can determine whether their assets are being vitiated by economic circumstances or not.

On provision of financial information, he said that government is ready always to receive such information because it helps it in such decisions to invest, divest, diversify or appropriate part of the returns on investment to other sector. He believed that it was only when a sound understanding of the objective of the government that is known that accountants can be properly directed on what to do and that a situation where public accountants are not thoroughly exposed like their counterparts in the private sector does not go drawn well in the operation of government business. He concluded that poor information gathering had caused a lot of delay in the presentation of annual financial statements of the government.

On internal control, he said that for accountability, transparency and probity in economic relationship to exist, the accountant must provide the necessary checks and balances within themselves. They must develop internal control measures that are designed to prevent his appropriation and safe guard public funds. This stewardship function should be the watch word of every public accountant to avoid damage of image or personality.

On attestation function, he said that a distinguished mark of a profession lies on the acceptance of its responsibility to the public it serves. And in a situation where ownership is separated from control, accounts are stationarily required to attest to the truth and fairness of the records of stewardship of the ministry’s vote controller. Attestation, according to him is the expression of opinion on the truth and fairness of the financial statements prepared by a department or ministry and presented to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the national house of assembly as part of their constitutional responsibilities. In his word, “statements presented to the PAC (Public accounts committee) without auditor’s verification or certification lack credibility”.

On tax function, he maintained that federal pay officers should stop converting all on-payment vouchers to personal use because it is through taxation that financial obligations of the government are met. A situation where the VAT and B.I.R deductions from contracts are diverted and converted to personal use should stop, and fair tax system are applied both job staff who pay as you earn (PAYE) and the contractors who perform useful job to the government.

On trust and leadership, he said that accountant must be seen as leaders. In his own word, leadership can be seen in terms of of one who can be looked up to, whose personal judgment is trusted, who can in spire and warm himself up to the hearts of those he leads, gaining their trust and confidence and explaining what is needed in a language which can be understood”. Therefore, leadership is all about trust and where trust is firmly founded, the public will be willing to make the desired sacrifice to achieve government objectives.

Based on the forgoing, he said that the Auditors must be up to date since they are custodian of financial information upon which depends all rational economic decisions. And that auditor must perform their statutory responsibilities without fear or favour in order to control federal government leakage of funds. They must among other things do the following:


  1. Plan their audits so as to dictate fraud or errors in the records of the ministry or department;

  2. Design audit procedure so as to have a reasonable expectation of detecting mix-statements arising from fraud or error which are material to the financial statement.

  3. Document their findings relation to insurances of frauds and discuss them with appropriate levels of management, and

  4. Report the matter to a proper authority in the public interest without delay.

Duties to society: According to him, accountants owe accountability, probity and transparency as a duty to the public.

OBSERVATION:

Observation is another technique used in the course of this research work. It was observed that public accountants cannot on their own change the public service without the co-operation of the administrators and chief executive of various establishments who has the mandate/authority. Cases where accountants are found wanting in the job are always met with big stick to carry out petty vendetta. Yet most of the chief executive are still living in their glass houses” (ie quality of the same misappropriation of funds).

Just as those behind the Sharia are being economical with the truth, the impact of public accountants are only known to the government. Like Sardauna of Sokoto used to say: “Talking without authority is a useless talk you can only continue to shout, it would not move anybody”. This is the position of the public accountants. They can find themselves in the ambit of the law in the operation of their duties, but if the Chief Executive.

This research work feels that it is high time we sit down and decide either to continue to work together or not, and the terms and basis of it. It is a disgrace that you see Nigerian accountants on the street as nobody, yet some government of officials and legislators (who are not better qualified have the effrontery to talk about spending millions to decorate where they want to live. At the end of the day everything points to one thing – imminent negotiation of our working relationship and living together since we are parners in the process.



TELEPHONE SERVICES;

Another technique used in the course of this research was telephone services. Personalities of interest in the profession whom I could not reach out during my face to face interview contact were reach out through the telephone. Few of them made a very sharp reaction while other choose their language on the topic: the impact of public accountants in maintaining accountability, transparency and probity in a corrupt society.

However, the consensus opinion was that accountants cannot enforce transparency if the political office holders including the political soldiers in the office were left out since they are partners in the political soldiers in the office were left out since they are partners in the process. That it was the attituditional behaviours of these powers to be has led to the devaluation of our naira. One of them concluded with a saying that “Morality is not a monopoly of religion or immorality that of unbelievers: that means that every person must aspire to be a good person and remain so in thought and conduct because even the worst of us known the difference between what is right and what is wrong. Therefore the bottom line is fear of unknown from known (i.e transition from person (Director of treasury) said that the impact of the public accountant cannot be felt in the present dispensation because they are seen as being very conservative. And should they be made the chief executive of any institution, they would not allow things to flow the way the political office would want it. And that most of the accountants may not be ready to bribe their way through as most of the political office holder can pave their way with a reasonable amount of sacrifice and risk. That a politician is ready to gain the mantle of leadership at all cost, then recoup their losses before he think of doing anything in his place or primary assignment, hence poor performance, poor development and corruption in the society.

That the only saving grace is total re-orientation of public accountants and their chief executives towards believing that a corrupt free-Nigeria will benefit the general public rather than few individuals in the society. It is only on this will the impact of the accountant felt in the implementation of transparency and probity in the society.




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