Between the 5th -22nd of August 2016, the eyes of the world would be focused on one of the world’s greatest sporting event, the summer Olympic Games. This year’s event is dubbed the Rio-Olympics games. It is also officially known as the xxxi Olympiad and will feature about 247 nations competing for laurels in 41 sporting events.
Despite the threat posed by the outbreak of the deadly Zika virus disease in Brazil the host country, it could neither deter many countries from participating, nor has diminished the excitement, expectation, interest of both athletes and fans, which characterize competitions of this magnitude.
Perhaps one of the things that has made Summer Olympics remain unarguably the biggest and most prestigious sporting event, is the fact that all the games featuring and indeed the general organization are guided by a set of clearly defined rules. These set of rules and regulations clearly define criteria for qualification and participation as well as specify individual athlete and country’s conduct during the games. It is also within the confines of these agreed rules that winners and losers are determined.
The fact, that every athlete or country participating in these competition already knows that his/her success or otherwise in the games will be determined by her own performance in competing within the rules of the games makes it easier to accept the end result in spite the efforts put in.
Equally clear from the onset are the consequences of any attempt by participating countries or athletes to overtly or covertly subvert the rules. Once an evidence of wrong doing has been established against an athlete or a country, the full weight of breaching such regulation(s) will be fully applied, even if the games have officially ended and winners publicly declared.
A case in point was the unprecedented decision of the Lausanne Switzerland based court of arbitration of sports (CAS) which banned the Russian Olympic Committee and 68 Russian track and field athletes from participating in the Rio-Olympic games. Their offence was the failure to comply with the regulation on the use of performance enhancing drugs. Shocking, you may say, but the “almighty Russia” was powerless in doing anything to upturn these decisions, since it has been based on agreed rules of the game.
Truly, I like the games. Even the World Cup and other internationally acclaimed competitions, all have become what they are today simply because of strict adherence to the rules of the games. It is sticking to the rules and regulations of the games that makes every athlete, team, country, whether rich or poor, developed nations or from the third world, have a sense of confidence and belonging. Infact, it is sticking to the rules any games that create a level ground to compete. Keeping to the rules is the leveler.
Similarly, every aspect of life irrespective of the activity you are involved in has certain rules and regulations guiding them. They are either naturally provided or have been agreed by the practitioners to order their conduct within the profession or endeavour. Interestingly, it would not be wrong to say that only those who are careful to observe these rules enjoy those endeavors to the fullest. Life itself is a sport and has it’s own rules which must be complied with in order to continue to enjoy it.
Even so, it is with the public service. It has a set of rules and regulation guiding those rendering service to the people, especially those involved in public finance management in the country. Keeping to the rules and regulations in these areas has become more imperative in view of the present challenges facing the country. There is no doubt that Government all over the world are indeed the highest spenders of public funds and resources. As public finance mangers, they hold these offices in trust for the people and it is incumbent on them to account for how these funds are managed. Indeed public accountability is seen as the hallmark of modern democratic governance.
Little wonder the Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris at a recent event in Abuja, called on all public finance managers in the country, including the police and armed forces to ensure that they stick to the rules of the game as contained in the Financial Regulations.
According to a statement released by the spokesperson of the Accountant-General, Alhaji Idris identified strict compliance to the provisions of the Government Financial regulations “ as the only way to avoid embarrassments in and after service” emphasizing that Government policies on financial management are meant to ensure prudence, transparency and accountability.
He therefore enjoined the Officers to take a clue from the on-going fight against corruption, where well respected serving and retired officers are being called to answer for their actions in the past, urging the officers not to be ambitious, but to play by the rules and ethics of their professions.
Indeed, the Government Financial regulations are the legal instruments that empower and guide all public officers in carrying out government financial transactions. It is often regarded as the “bible” of the Government Accountants. These regulations have been so well though-out and structured that if strictly followed, will not only reduce malfeasances considerably, but will also ensure every kobo will be put to judicious use.
Although some may argue that the current Financial regulations released in 2009 is fast becoming out of touch with current economic and fiscal realities, they must be reminded the Office of the Accountant- General of the Federation has since then being issuing Treasury circulars to provide a guide and direction on any policy direction as regards public finance management.
It is therefore important to reiterate that as the nation goes through these trying times, whether it is the fight against corruption, fight against terrorism, contending with the activities of herdsmen, resurgence of militancy in the Niger delta, cries of marginalization by the south east as well as the call for restructuring the country and even the struggle to stabilize the value of the naira or even to diversify the economy, no meaningful progress will be made without a commitment by all Nigerians to stick by the rules. It is until all are seen to be playing by the rules, irrespective status, tribe, religion or party affiliations, that the confidence of all stakeholders in the Nigeria project can be restored. It is also only then that genuine and truthful reconciliation will be forged.
Finally as the Olympic games is here with us, let us enjoy the games, cheer our teams to victory, but we must not forget that every true medal winner must have played by the rules. I wish Team-Nigeria good luck.
Ifeanyi Okereke is a Communications Officer with the Office of Accountant General of the Federation.