For For some time, I engaged in a deep reflection on exactly what the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation does. Don’t twist it. I was just rummaging through what is supposed to be a very important office in the management of government finances, but of which the population knows little. By contemplation, like a monk coming out of his cell, I asked questions. One of the questions I asked was, besides wearing black suits and counting Nigerian money, what else do OAGF workers do? The answers I got are quite revealing. I was actually wrong in thinking that because the office has “accountant” attached to its name, all it does is count money, generated or borrowed. I may not be alone in this case.
After investigation, I understood that OAGF was in fact the mastermind behind the design and development of the innovative Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS), which is arguably one of the cardinal policies anchored by OAGF. The development and introduction of IPPIS has reduced instances of ghost workers and other dubious activities hitherto associated with the government payroll and, according to a January 2022 report, saved Nigeria $124 billion naira a year and eliminating some 70,000 ghost workers. With this, new ideas and strategies were incorporated and many ministries, departments and agencies including military and paramilitary formations were registered on the payment platform. The decentralization of IPPIS operations allows agencies and institutions to manage certain functions without having to travel to Abuja.
The office’s innovative efforts have also led to the development of financial instruments such as the Treasury Single Account (CUT), the Public Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS), audit modernization, adoption International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) and training of public finance officials on the preparation and presentation of IPSAS-compliant general purpose financial statements. These financial management reform initiatives have registered tremendous successes and have also contributed to changing the landscape of public financial management in the country.
In addition to this, the office has taken strong decisions to institutionalize transparency, accountability and efficiency in the government system by adopting and fully deploying information and communication technologies (ICT) in the process of public finance management. This effort, which symbolized a significant leap from the analog system, rejuvenated the campaign for financial transparency and accountability in government through which OAGF created a network of its staff in MDAs, which gave it enabled to push for the adoption and implementation of financial management reform initiatives in all government and parastatal agencies as well as to ensure compliance.
For example, in September 2020, the office, relying on the provisions of the current financial regulations, commissioned a comprehensive review of treasury forms and source accounting documents used for government financial transactions in all MDAs. It continued in 2021 with a revision of the financial regulation. While carrying out these reviews, it was observed that the accounting source documents used were not compatible with the ICT-enabled financial management reforms, as the current version of the financial regulations was last revised. times in 2009. The implication was that it did not take into account current public financial management reforms that internal auditors and chief executives of MDAs needed to guide all government financial transactions.
As part of efforts to guide, sensitize and provide an appropriate roadmap to relevant public finance stakeholders and managers, the office established in April 2016 the Technical Sub-Committee on Cash Management which is the professional arm Federal Cash Management Committee (FCMC). Its functions include obtaining input from stakeholders, deliberating on it, and making informed recommendations to the FCMC. This committee, which has proven to be very instrumental in the successes of the office, met for a third retreat in April 2021, despite the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the overriding objective of reflecting and developing new new strategies and ideas that would promote effective management of public funds, which at the time were severely affected by the global economic crisis. The annual retreat was themed “Advancing Operational Efficiency for Effective Liquidity and Cash Management in Nigeria: Beyond Rhetoric”.
Beyond the rhetoric, the committee met again in June 2022 for the fourth edition of its retreat with the aim of consolidating the achievements of previous meetings. The retreat themed “Enthroning Fiscal Discipline in Nigeria’s Public Financial Management: A Clarion Call to All Stakeholders”, was aimed at enhancing the capacities of the sub-committee members and familiarizing them with more information and toolkits in the management of the country’s budgetary challenges. as well as developing strategies that would enable effective budget management.
Earlier in May 2022, the office held a five-day retreat in Kano State where it engaged public financial management stakeholders in brainstorming sessions aimed at harvesting new ideas and strategies for advancing the federal government’s public financial management reform initiatives. And, with the changing realities of the contemporary ICT-driven world, the risks, as well as the administrative challenges associated with document-based audits, have now made the case for the adoption of modern audit technology. . Being aware of this reality puts the office at the peak of its thinking skills leading to the acquisition of modern auditing software and gadgets which its audit monitoring department is now equipped with. To re-equip its accountants and auditors, the office also held a three-day orientation workshop in 2020 to upgrade and empower internal auditors on the use of modern audit software. This was followed by another five-day intensive training workshop for accountants and auditors from MDAs on the use of such software.
The office’s efforts to improve open governance and financial reporting led to the inauguration of the Financial Transparency Policy/Open Treasury Portal, which went live as part of initiatives to promote transparency in government financial transactions. Accordingly, this policy stipulates the timely availability of information on revenue inflows and expenditures of MDAs on the open Treasury portal. This means that stakeholders and the general public can view the information and ask questions if necessary.
Meanwhile, in the face of declining revenues that have hampered the implementation of government policies and programs, OAGF has become a central player in the quest to reverse the country’s declining revenue inflows. To this end, it has developed strategies, implemented new strategies and mobilized resources and personnel with the aim of seeing improved revenue inflows. One such strategy was to assign treasury managers to FG-owned enterprises (FGOEs) as revenue managers. As Revenue Managers, they were responsible for injecting new ideas into the revenue generation mechanism of FGOEs and ensuring proper disbursements by agencies. This strategy was endorsed in 2020 by the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Dr. Zainab Ahmed. A policy review in April 2022, during a retreat in Abuja, showed that the deployment of Revenue Managers in the ten Federal Government Owned Enterprises (FGOEs) in 2020 contributed positively to the achievement of 1,250 trillion Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) Naira in 2021.
As I have observed from my investigations, OAGF has carefully undertaken a wide range of capacity building initiatives for its staff and welfare, public finance operators in MDAs and others. stakeholders including the development of the Federal Treasury Academy in Orozo, Abuja. It aims to become a leading institute for human capacity development in public finance management. Efforts are underway to obtain the necessary legal support and approvals from relevant bodies to ensure that certificates issued by the institute are generally accepted.