Saturday, November 28, 2015 11:56 am
Mr. Ahmed Idris is the Accountant General of the Federation. In this interview with journalists (including Ayorinde Oluokun) in Abuja, he spoke about the ongoing implementation of the Treasury Single Account and other reform initiatives of government.
Q: What is the level of compliance with the TSA now?
A: Compliance with the TSA is high and we are getting more and more satisfied with the compliance. Today, we have 792 MDAs that have come on board and that have enrolled. And for this MDAs, we have opened 991 sub accounts. The sub accounts are the accounts of the MDAs and possibly, their project accounts because an MDA can have, apart from its own account, other sub accounts for projects. We have also realized about N1.534 trillion. The figure will keep on changing because we create sub accounts like I said, so this grand total may become a bit lower tomorrow because once you create a sub account, you take a particular amount which is for a specific project for a particular MDA and you put it in an account. However, there is a linkage.
Q:Why is it that universities and other institutions are asking the government to exempt them from enrolling in the Integrated Personnel Payment System, IPPIS?
A: Eventually, IPPIS, being one of the reform initiatives of government has to be applied to all institutions of government. Yes, universities, polytechnics, colleges of education and so on are not yet on board, but we will get them enrolled. They have to be on board. I really don’t know why they want to be left out of a policy that was laudable, that will ensure and engender efficiency in the payment of salaries. It is a policy of government and we are interacting and talking to them. They have to come on board. It is a policy of government and they have to comply.
Q: What is the relationship between IPPIS, IPSAS, GIFMIS and TSA?
A: They are all part of the overall economic reforms programme of government that are being undertaken through this office. These are the components of government reforms programme. They are in tandem with the global best practices and are meant to make us comply with the standard set in terms of financial management, reporting, management of the economy, government expenditure – fiscal issues- financial and monetary issues are all covered in these reform initiatives. We are not living in an island, we are a member of the international community and we have to comply with the world’s standard best practices. And these are the components that will make us get to that level and government is gradually enrolling and bringing out these reform programmes.
Q: In what ways will these reforms contribute to the fight against corruption?
A: When you are talking of good governance, it is a whole package. It is not just about how ministries are run in terms of the leadership and so on, but also, how economy, the finances of the ministries are managed. These reforms will bring about transparency, accountability, fiscal discipline, decorum in the pattern of management of government resources and the way and manner expenditure is made. They will also block leakages, particularly now that our resources are dwindling in terms of our earning from oil as the source of revenue. So, these put together are some of the benefits that we are going to derive in pursuing these policies.
Q: What are you doing to tackle the challenges that have been linked with the implementation of TSA so far like the difficulties the MDAs are facing in accessing funds?
A: I must admit that like for any other policy that is new, you will always get one issue or the other in terms of the implementation. TSA is not an exception. However, this office has done a great deal of work with our partners like the CBN and the company that is deploying the technology to move the funds electronically and so far, we are getting over some of these issues. Like I told you, we have been able to open with CBN on behalf of MDAs, 991 sub accounts and most of these sub accounts can be accessed. However, in view of the fact that some of these large sums of money which were mopped up following the directive of CBN were lumped into an account, we need to carefully identity and segregate each component, each account and then make sure that what we are crediting into a sub account of an MDA is the correct amount.
When you are talking of good governance, it is a whole package. It is not just about how ministries are run in terms of the leadership and so on, but also, how economy, the finances of the ministries are managed. These reforms will bring about transparency, accountability, fiscal discipline, decorum in the pattern of management of government resources and the way and manner expenditure is made. They will also block leakages, particularly now that our resources are dwindling in terms of our earning from oil as the source of revenue.
We are talking of money, we cannot just be doing it haphazardly and we need to verify statements and evidences that this is the amount mopped up before we credit a sub account on behalf of an MDA. This is causing the delay, but it is for the benefit of the MDAs. But some of the organizations have been accessing their money freely, I believe it is those who dragged their feet and refused to come on board initially were those affected because their funds were mopped up and now it is a matter of sorting it out, reconciling the amount and crediting the correct amounts into their sub accounts. That is exactly what we are doing to overcome the issues.
Q: How far has the implementation of IPSAS gone now?
A: The implementation of IPSAS, like I said is one of the components of the reform initiatives being undertaken on behalf of government by this office. In other words, we are the driving office. From 2012, we started the cash basis of IPSAS which essentially is not different from what we used to do. With effect from 1 January next year, that is having run the cash basis for two years, we are going to commence the accrual basis of accounting and that essentially means we will bring up our accounting process almost to the level of the private sector. You can easily accrue and recognize a liability in your book, you can see an asset- in other words, you don’t buy an asset and write it off in a year. You depreciate it over the year of utilization. In any case, accrual basis is the last leg of implementation of IPSAS and we will commence it by January next year. It is to make our financial reporting system better and more acceptable to our international development partners and be in line with the global best practices.
Q: You said you don’t know why the universities and other institutions are saying they should be left out of the IPPIS and TSA…
A: I said I don’t know why because I am not aware of any bad side to them. So, why should somebody be running away from something that is good?
Q: But the complaints by the Universities for example is that there are some kind of payments they made, like for those on sabbatical which may not be captured by the IPPIS system?
A: No, it is not for anybody to say this or that should not be captured. They should make themselves available and be captured. It is when we capture them and they don’t see such payments being made that they can complain. You don’t just imagine a problem; a problem has to be real and practicable, so there is no basis for that fear. In any case they are government institutions and if they are government institutions, this is government policy and government would not bring about policies to kill its institutions or do you think government will bring up policies that will make universities not to embark on teaching and research? In any case, they have already agreed to come on board and it is a matter of time.