Mr Victor Chinemere, the Chairman of Fiscal Responsibility Commission (FRC), says the reluctance of MDAs to publish their monthly financial transactions is stalling the commission’s drive to improve fiscal transparency and accountability.
Chinemere made this known in a paper he presented during the Lunch Time Reform Seminar organised by the Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR), on Thursday in Abuja.
The paper is titled ‘Strengthening Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Prudence through the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007.’ He said that the publication of audited financial statements were also routinely ignored or flouted by the federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
Chinemere explained that the report was part of the provision of the Fiscal Responsibility Act which the MDAs were expected to comply with.
The FRC chairman said although, the publication of daily payment report by the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF) has recorded significant compliance since inception, the MDAs have not been forthcoming.
“It appears that most MDAs have not been forthcoming with up-to-date information on their daily financial transaction on the open treasury portal as required.
“And in a format that would enable ordinary citizens clearly understand what is being displayed.
“ Time limits which are imposed for the performance of obligations under the Act, especially for the disclosure of financial records or publication of audited financial statements are routinely ignored or flouted.
“This partly explains the inability of the government to take necessary and timely fiscal decisions and effectively communicate same to the citizenry,” he said.
The chairman added that Government Financial Transparency Policy Guidelines required all MDAs to publish monthly budget performance reports within seven days of the end of each month.
“ The publication which is a responsibility of both the OAGF and MDAs should detail performance of the budget by various dimensions including functions and economic activities performed by all federal government agencies.
This is largely being disobeyed.
” Chinemere also expressed concern about the failure of most states and local governments to fully adopt the the Financial Responsibility Act, 2007, even though they take more than 48% of national resources.
“This is a major drawback to the quest for transparency and accountability, bearing in mind that Nigeria operates one economy.
“ Less than 24 states are known to have passed their FRLSs with varying degrees of implementation,” he added.
” It is lamentable that some states are yet to operationalize the Treasury Single Accountant up-till now,” he added, saying that some states were yet to also commit to the Open Government Partnership.
Chinemere, however, said in spite of the challenges, “there is great improvement in transparency in Federal government ’s fiscal and financial affairs.
These, he said, included “improvement in fullness and timeliness of disclosure and publication of transactions and decisions involving public revenues and expenditure and their implications for its finances.
“Regular publication of monthly financial disbursement to the three tires of government from the Federation Account after successive FAAC meetings.
“The introduction of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) which is a public accounting system whereby all the Federal government receipt, revenue and income are collected into one single account maintained and managed by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
” According to him, the TSA is meant to promote and enthrone an efficient, centralized, transparent and accountable revenue management system as well as facilitate effective cash management.
The FRC chairman urged the National Assembly to fast track the amendment of the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007 to ensure effective performance of the commission.
“The commission’s funding must be increased significantly if it is to effectively deal with violations to the FRA 2007. “Including those relating to failure to comply with transparency and accountability provisions and to undertake the prosecution of offenders as proposed in the amendment.
” He said that the commission wants the amendment to include sanction for violations, including prohibiting violators from contesting elections into public office for five years, and fines of up to 30% of annual salary and jail terms ranging from three months to four years.
“Where necessary, the commission will continue to,“name and shame” violators, not just in the media, but by reporting them to the NASS with the hope of curbing and reducing seeming impunity.
” The chairman added that citizen groups, NGOs, CSOs and other individuals should be sensitized to activate the civil enforcement mechanism set out in Section 51 of the Act. He said that the section allowed them to seek prerogative orders of the Federal High Court in order to “compel” public officers to comply with transparency and accountability obligations of the Act. “It is hoped and prayed that the NASS will speed up the FRA, 2007 amendment process in order to produce a more robust legislative instrument for ensuring and enforcing the improvement of fiscal hygiene in Nigeria,” he added.
Chinemere added that passage of the amendment was necessary, as the 2007 Act did not stipulate appropriate sanctions and punishments for offenders.
“This has made it difficult to compel compliance with its provisions and end the current impunity with which its provisions are flouted particularly in the area of transparency and accountability,” he said.
Earlier, the Director General of BPSR, Mr Dasuki Arabi, described accountability as an acceptance of responsibility for honest and ethical conduct towards others.
“As public servants, we are accountable to our stakeholders, employees and the citizens at large; being accountable implies a willingness to be judged on performance.
“The public service is the machinery that hovernment uses to render services to the people and as such, public servants should think of how they can constantly and conveniently improve themselves to give better service.
“The process of rendering these services must conform to the prescribed code of conduct provided by the Constitution.
“Thus, a public officer shall not put himself in a position where his personal interest conflicts with his duties and responsibilities,” he added.
According to him, the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007 aims to achieve fiscal stability and sustainability, improve fiscal transparency and increase the accountability of the government and the public servants.
“By this Act, it is expected that the public sector would have a definite regulatory structure to act as watch dog on the activities of the public office holders and as checks on financial encroachment between and among tiers of government.
“This is expected to bring sanity and responsiveness into the public sector and among the various tiers of government in Nigeria,” Arabi said.
He added that the aim was also to ensure good governance, macroeconomic stability, commitment to social and economic equity and the promotion of efficient public institutions.
“For economic development and growth to thrive in Nigeria, there must be prudence and accountability in handling public funds, there must be reduction in fraud and improving the transparency in the way public servants work,” he emphasised.
Arabi said that the Bureau’s vision of seeing a Nigeria with a well-functioning, effective and efficient socio-economic system is shared by the vision of the Fiscal Responsibility Commission.
He added that the vision “is to establish a transparent and accountable government management framework for Nigeria”.