Awka – A one-day stakeholders’ audit forum for the report of the Auditor General of Anambra State for the 2019 Fiscal year, was on Wednesday held in the state capital, Awka.
The forum funded by UNICEF and World Bank was organized by the Anambra State Government through the Office of the Auditor General of the State in collaboration with the State and Local Governance Reform (SLOGOR) project.
It has as its theme, Accountable Service Delivery: Improving Public Accountability through International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS).
Section 125 (3a and b), of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as Amended, made it mandatory for all government parastatals, boards, commissions among others, to produce annual audited accounts and reports of the transactions.
The essence of the stakeholders’ audit is tailored towards achieving transparency, accountability and above all, value for money in carrying out government business, according to the Acting Project Coordinator of Anambra SLOGOR, Ifeoma Ezedebego.
She revealed that the audit ought to have held last year but for the global COVID-19 pandemic and other happenings within the country.
Ezedebego said the audit portrays Anambra as a reforming and transparent entity and will help the state consolidate the demand for an effective external audit functions.
“Specifically, today’s activity is to appraise the Audited Reports of Anambra State Government for the 2019 fiscal year towards improved Public Finance Management in the state. The forum aims to avail stakeholders information on how the state resources were raised as well as utilized for the period under review. It will also educate public officers on the need to be accountable in the management of public resources,” she said.
The State Auditor General, Mr Alex Onwuli said the occasion was designed to enhance citizens’ participation in governance, urging participants as they review the reports, to be geared towards the overall interest and wellbeing of the state.
In his view, “Government holds the state resources in trust for the citizens and through this audit, it gives account of how it deployed them.”
In an overview of the 2019 audited financial statements of the state, a Chartered Accountant, Mrs Eseosa Mbachu observed that comparatively, revenue generated from internal sources within the state have remained unimpressive while performance of revenue windows remained uninspiring, relative to the economic potentials of the state.
She also noted that direct taxes have remained the major and consistent contribution to the Internally Generated Revenue, adding that except in 2016, the direct taxes recorded consistent increase for the period 2015 to 2019.
A Chartered Accountant and Principal Partner with an Accounting Firm that facilitated the audit, Sir Obi Okechukwu, while speaking on key issues in implementing the IPSAS, explained that the main objective of the IPSAS is to improve the Public Sector Financial Reporting Worldwide through accrual-based accounting standards for use in government offices and other public sector entities around the world.
He regretted that although it has proved to be efficient in ensuring accountability in public funds administration, governments across the country have not done enough in encouraging public officers to drive the implementation of the Standards in public offices.
“If well implemented, IPSAS can help Anambra state also compare notes with other states of the Federation and other viable economies of the world. This will help address the problem of states having account arrears for many years whn they are supposed to be submitting their accounts annually,” he noted.
He advocated the involvement of private sector experts to train the public officers to drive the implementation of the standards.
Some participants at the forum, Prince Chris Azor of the State Civil Society Network (ACSONET) and Ogemdi Ozoemenam, raised issues on the need to link the IPSAS to the budget process as well as called for sustenance of the audit to ensure that people are always kept in the know, as to how their resources are being spent by government.
Another participant from the Civil Society Group, Benjamin Chukwuka, regretted that the way the government conducts its budgeting processes have been a major reason for Nigeria’s poor budget implementation and the low impact it usually have on citizens and the economy.
He observed that budgeting is a serious business that requires contribution from all stakeholders, but what is done in the country year after year, is copy and paste.
According to him, this does not reflect the economic realities of the day and eventually end up having no impact on citizens even as the economy continues to suffer.