For some time now, Nigeria has been in the news for the wrong reasons. If it is not about insurgency or kidnapping, it is about how she is bringing the rear in global ranking on ease of doing business. It may even be on corruption, the canker which the present administration has sworn to rid off.
However, as news filtered in on the recent appointment of the Accountant-General of the Federation, Mr. Ahmed Idris into the Consultative Advisory Group of the International Public Sector Accounting Standards Board, (IPSASB–CAG), it was relieving, that something good can come out of Nigeria.
Interestingly, this is the first time a Nigerian will be appointed to serve on the International Public Sector Accounting Standards Board. The International Public Sector Accounting Standards Board, IPSASAB is an independent global body set up by the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) to amongst others develop and issue high quality accounting standards in the preparation of general purpose financial statements by governments and other public Sector entities around the World. These standards ensure that the quality, consistency, and transparency of public sector financial reporting worldwide are not only enhanced but widely adopted by Accountants globally.
Impressively, the spokesperson of the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation, Mrs. Kene Offie, attributes the appointment to the recognition and “an endorsement of the giant strides made by Nigeria in Public Sector Finance Management Reforms”.
However, it was the AGF, Ahmed Idris, who told journalists that the appointment was an international recognition of President’s Buhari’s tough stance against corruption and his commitment to do the right things.
According him, although the reforms were commenced during the last administration, it is President Buhari who has displayed uncommon zeal and political will that created the enabling environment that has allowed his office to drive the reforms the present stage being recognized by the IPSAB and other development partners.
Although Nigeria’s appointment is for an initial 2-year tenure, which can be extended to a period of nine years, it undoubtedly, holds far-reaching economic and political implications for governance in the country.
For instance, in the area of Budget preparation, membership of this body will enable Nigeria access more experience and support required for effective budget preparation and implementation using IPSAS. IPSAS compliant financial statements are widely acknowledged to provide more comprehensive and accurate views of a government’s financial position, which helps to improve financial management and increase transparency and accountability.
Since the Budget is a key accountability tool in the public Sector, it is important that the financial statements must be able to compare with the provisions in the Budget. This entails full disclosure of all government financial transactions which is key to addressing the constant friction between the Executive and Legislative, especially during budget consideration and approval.
Beyond this, it is hoped to further encourage the establishment of a harmonized budgetary system across the three tiers of government. This will help in deepening the culture of transparency and accountability in governance in the nation.
In addition, membership of the IPSASB- CAG provides Nigeria a unique opportunity to develop the capacity of government financial managers to produce quality financial reports apart from opening new frontiers in international practice and ultimately improve the standard of Public financial management in the Country.
More importantly, it would help bridge the gap and provide harmony among Nigeria’s foremost Accounting bodies, the Institute of Charted Accountants of Nigeria, and the Association of National Accountants of Nigeria, in harmonizing procedures and standards of professional accounting in Nigeria.
Again, it will facilitate the implementation and the enforcement of the Freedom of Information Act, (FOI) in the country. IPSAS requirements are anchored on the tenets of transparency and accountability which are consistent with FOI Act which seeks to promote access to government information.
Applying IPSAS will make it difficult to conceal information any more as use of Information would compel the operators to leave them on the public domain. In fact, it is a great tool for fighting corruption.
Another important area is attracting foreign direct investment to Nigeria. In this period of dwindling revenue, it has become almost impossible to operate without the support from international agencies. Membership on the IPSAS Group remains a huge boost in this regard as it helps in building confidence among Donor Agencies and Lenders which will lead to increasing the country’s access to international aids/loans and other development assistance.
There is no doubt that this is huge opportunity for Nigeria, to contribute her quota in the development of the accounting profession in the world, the Accountant-General of the Federation would require the support of all Nigerians to ensure that Nigeria makes a great success of this outing.
— Ifeanyi Okereke is a Communication Officer with the Office of Accountant General of the Federation