As far back as 350 BC, the importance of transparency and accountability in the management of the public finance has been put to the fore. Aristotle in one of his classics, “The Politics” underscored the importance of these principles when he suggested “that to protect the Treasury, from being defrauded, let all the money be issued openly in front of the whole city and let copies of the accounts be deposited in various wards.”
That tells me that man’s needs, irrespective of race and civilization, have not changed much. Treasury departments of every country play pivotal role in the success or otherwise of the management of the nation’s common purse. The extent to which the public is availed of this information determines the level of trust the managers enjoy. Therefore, the need for transparent public financial management cannot be over-emphasized. Indeed, it is an essential ingredient for democracy and good governance. Treasury departments, as stewards of the nation’s funds, are expected to constantly provide adequate, current information to the public on their activities.
Essentially, the true nature of transparency calls for openness, sincerity, honesty, fairness and even clarity in the conduct of business in all its ramifications and in conformity with due process . Indeed, Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation, under the leadership of the Mr. Ahmed Idris, has carved a niche for itself in the area of transparency and accountability.
Since assumption of office, the Accountant-General has left no one in doubt that truly, the change mantra will not be mere lip service. From records, the AGF has never rejected any request from the media concerning interviews, appearance on a live programme or addressing the press on any issues connected with activities of the Nigerian Treasury or even bore his mind on the economy in general. He readily avails himself of every opportunity to intimate Nigerians and general public about the activities of the Treasury.
Contrary to what we used to know that a civil servant is only supposed to be seen and not to be heard, Mr. Idris realises that although this is the rule, but times have changed. The era of opacity and secrecy in government business is fast going. He has consistently maintained that as a public servant and a matter of principle, he remains accountable to Nigerians and to Mr. President who appointed him.
Sometime ago, at the height of full implementation of the Treasury Single Account, (TSA), the AGF made frantic efforts to explain to Nigerians on the merits of the policy, some people accused him of being too frank. But that is the nature of transparency, it is a no-holds-barred, see-through process where all the stakeholders would have equal and unhindered access to the true position of things and at the same time upholding the tenet of the profession.
Furthermore, he has also introduced far-reaching measures aimed at further entrenching transparency in all the activities of the Treasury. Some of these include, the strengthening of the Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS) Unit, to anchor the payment and other responsibilities on government online; periodic inspections and verifications of how public funds are managed at the MDAs to ensure compliance with the Financial Regulations and extant rules and guidelines.
Let me also place on record that the success of the TSA is partly hinged on the doggedness and resoluteness of Mr. President and the Accountant-General of the Federation. You cannot imagine the level of pressure and arm-twisting being mounted in some quarters for some government agencies to be exempted from the TSA, but it has taken transparency and strength of character on the part of the AGF to ensure the President’s directive is totally complied with.
Little wonder in the wisdom of the Board of Governors, the Account-General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris was recently honoured by the Association of Forensic and Investigative Auditors (AFIA) as the fellow of the Association.
AFIA is the world’s leading forensic audit and investigation organisation and premier provider of anti-fraud and forensic training and education with headquarters in Canada.
According to a statement from his office, Mr. Ahmed idris, while receiving the certificate, thanked the Association for the honour, describing it as recognition of the OAGF’s achievements rather than his personal achievement.
He called on Nigerians, especially government institutions, to remain committed to the President’s fight against corruption by ensuring that standard procedures are observed in the running of all government businesses.
The AGF maintained that the current fight against corruption by government can never succeed without information sharing and cooperation of all relevant MDAs, saying that acts of corruption continues because of the silence of the majority of Nigerians.
In her address, the President and Chairperson of the Board of Governors, Dr. Mrs. Victoria Enape, commended the Accountant-General of the Federation on his exemplary leadership and transparent manner he had conducted the affairs in the office since he assumed office.
It would be recalled that the AGF had earlier been recognised by other international bodies on his commitment to transparent and efficient management of public finance in Nigeria. It is usually said that to whom much is given much is expected. There is no doubt that these recognitions are calls on the AGF not to rest on his oars. Obviously, he has shown that he has the capacity to do more and Nigerians are expecting more.
Ifeanyi Okereke is a Communications Officer with the OAGF.