FINANCIAL CONTROL AND ACCOUNTABILITY IN THE PUBLIC SECTOR
( A CASE STUDY OF ABIA STATE MINISTRY OF FINANCE)
The primary concern here is to identify to what extent good accounting system in the Public Sector can ensure Financial Control and Accountability in the Public sector Financial or is a critical factor in management and therefore must be prudently handled and accounted for if the public sector is to realize its goals and objectives. It is on this account that this research work has been undertaken to try and unravel the reasons why government ministries and department most times finds it difficult to control and properly account for finances available to them. Subsequently, a number of reasons have been deduced as being responsible for poor financial control and accountability. They include; Poor implementation of financial regulations, lack of effective internal control system, inadequate reward system and sharp practices by public servants. The Abia State Ministry of Finance was used as case study, and information was sourced through sampled population in the Ministry by means of questionnaire. Data was collected, analyzed and interpreted using tables and chi-square. Findings showed that unless financial regulations are strictly followed and defaulters punished accordingly, financial control and accountably may still elude the public sector.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1.1 Background of the study
1.2 Statement of Research problems
1.3 Objectives of the study
1.4 Research question
1.5 Research Hypothesis
1.6 Scope of the study
1.7 Limitation of the study
1.8 Significance of the study
1.9 Definition of Terms
1.10 Theoretical Framework.
2.1 Financial Regulation in the Public Sectors
2.2 Methods of financial control in the Public Sector
2.3 key officers in Government Accounting and
2.4 Objectives of financial control and accountability
2.5 problems of financial control and Accountability in
the Public Sector.
3.0 Research Design and Methodology
3.1 Study Population
3.2 Sampling and sample techniques
3.3 Research design
3.4 Sources of Data
3.5 Research instrument
3.6 Validity and Reliability
3.7 Method of data analysis
3.8 Method of Data collection.
4.1 Data presentation and Analysis
4.2 Background of sample elements
4.3 Distribution of sample element
4.4 Finding and Analysis of questionnaire
4.5 Testing of Hypothesis.
Discussion of Findings
5.1 Summary of Findings
1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Government activities nowadays have largely increase. The increase in government functions and activities come as a result of the complex nature of the modern society. For government to live up to its responsibility, care must be taken in the management of scare resources available to achieve these laudable goals.
Other than maintenance of law and orders, peace and stability, government is also involved in providing social services such as provision of good roads, transport, portable drinking water, power and energy etc. All these services need money (finance). It is also the duty of government to generate revenue for the achievement of its set goals and objectives- creating social welfare and harmony in the society.
Finance is a critical resource in the chain of production and therefore must be prudently used to achieve results. It is on this premise that financial control and accountability in public sector becomes imperative. This research work attempts to discover the reason(s) behind poor performance by government in relation to financial control and accountability in the public sector.
Government agencies or the public sector is very heterogeneous in nature and so the nature of financial control is completely different from that of the private sectors in so many ways. At one end we have government owned companies that must be operated like private business, in the middle, our parastatal, that are somewhat amorphous, often having conflicting goals to achieve and then the government machinery itself which is a services outfit, (Azubuike and Njemanze 2006, 15)
Consequently upon the heterogeneous nature of the public sector, the financial regulations guiding the activities or financial transaction in public sector is contained in the law setting it up. Some of such financial statutory regulations are:
a. Finance (Control an Management) Act 1958
b. The Nigerian Constitution
c. Financial Memorandum
d. Financial Regulation
f. Treasury and circular Letter
g. Accounting manual.
These regulatory framework of public sector accounting mentioned above are applied in varied ways depending on the mode of operation of the government agencies or ministry.
Amara (2009) sums up the benefit of financial control and accountability in the public sector as follows:
– It justifies the estimates of public sector.
– It ensures and superintends the use of appropriated funds
– It is device for timing the rate of expenditure and auditing of accounts
In the same vein, Johnson (1999) also list a number of importance associated with financial control and accountability to include the following.
1. That it provides the broad and specific accounting system adopted in recording financial transactions.
2. Ensure that transactions remain within the framework of law and further reduces the risk of fraud
3. It provides the basis for financial management and control
The Abia state Ministry of finance is one of the parent ministries in the Abia State Government. The state governor is the chief accounting officer of the state. He is the executive head of government and head of the executive council of the executive arm of government.
As the minister of finance is the chief accounting officer in the federal ministry, the commissioner is also the chief accounting officer in Abia State finance Ministry outside the permanent secretary. The ministry has other departments and units, some of which include Auditing department, board of internal revenue, statistics and record, accounts unit, budget and logistics among others.
The ministry of finance is in charge of rendering accounts and controlling all financial transactions. The ministry through the accountant-general of the state is saddled with responsibility of general supervision of all the accounts of the different ministries and departments within the state, and prepares the annual financial statement of account of the state as required by the ministry.
The finance Ministry is vested with the statutory responsibility of auditing the state accounts as provided by the financial regulations. The Auditor –general is empowered by law to audit the account of all accounting officers and all persons entrusted with the collection, custody, receipts, issues or payment of public funds, (Adams 2001).
Ministry of finance in the Abia State government is populated with one hundred employees who make up workforce of the ministry. These are the people who are responsible for ensuring compliance with the laid down procedure for financial transactions as contained in the financial regulations and legal books
1.2 STATEMENT OF RESEARCH PROBLEM
Nigerian Public Sector is plagued with a number of problems. These problems hinder it from discharging its duties and responsibilities effectively and efficiently for the betterment of the people. One of such problem is that of financial control and accountability.
Financial control and accountability becomes a problem when there is no strict measure to ensure compliance with the laid down regulations guiding financial transaction and accountability in public sector. In other words, the lack of justification of estimate, superintending the use of appropriated funds and timing the rate of expenditure and auditing of account constitute the problems which triggers this investigation
In addition to the above mentioned problems, other problematic areas in the public sector finance includes:
· Fraudulent practices by public officer and agencies.
· Maintaining and operating proper accounting system as required by law.
· Inadequate internal system in each unit.
· Problem of poor coordination
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
Within the ambit of this research topic, “Financial control and accountability in Public Sector”, The purpose of study is not far fetched. The purposes of the study can be summarized in these ways:
(a). To determine ways of checking fraud.
(b). To ascertain to what extent compliance with financial regulations can help government in achieving set goals and objectives.
(c) To establish standard and appropriate financial system for recording and extracting financial information.
1.4 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
This research work will be of immense benefit to those in the top management cadre in the government ministries and parastatals and to the general public. For top management, the information gained from this work will help them streamline their financial regulation and assist in fraud detection. Secondly, young researchers will also find the result of this, work a very useful resources material for work. This is so because the information have given them the basic knowledge needed to pursue their work to a logical conclusion. On a more general note, the research will also add to the existing body of knowledge in the subject matter.
Conclusively, this work will as a matter of fact help public organizations know whether or not they have appropriate control mechanism in terms of recourse management and fraud detection.
1.5 RESEARCH HYPOTHESES
Research hypothesis are tentative statement of propositions made about the research in a testable or verifiable manner. The term “verifiable” or “testable” as used here mean that hypothesis can be accepted or rejected.
Therefore, the following research hypotheses are formulated based on the research problems stated above:
Ho1: Fraudulent practices by public servants is not a hindrance to achievement of public sector goals and objectives.
H1: Fraudulent practices by public servants is a hindrance to achievement of public sector goals and objectives.
Ho: Maintaining and operating proper accounting system as required by law is not a means of ensuring financial control and accountability.
H1: Maintain and operating proper accounting system as required by law is a means of ensuring financial control and accountability.
Ho: Internal control system does not contribute to financial control and management.
H1: Internal control system contributes in financial control and management.
1.6 THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
The public sector accounting concepts are numerous. For this research work, the most appropriate concept or theory on which this research can be analyze is the matching concept of government accounting.
Matching theory of government accounting holds that for any accounting period, the earned revenue and all the incurred cost that generate that revenue must be matched and reported for the period (Oshisam 1992). This concept only applies to economic unit in the public sector, which seeks the determination of profit or adopts the accrued basis of accounting (Adams 2001)
In other words, the matching concept of government accounting means that cost and expenses should be tied to the revenue and its associated costs and expense are accounted for in the same accounting period. This concept succinctly explains financial accountability in the public sector.
1.7 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
The research work is aimed at examining the effect of financial control and accountability in the public sector. On this account, a case study of Abia State Ministry of Finance is chosen. Therefore is delimited to Abia State Ministry of Finance alone.
1.9 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
i. To what extent strict compliance with financial regulations can help government ministries in achieving goals and objectives.
ii. How does financial control check fraud in government circles?
iii. How can financial control and accountability aid in establishing appropriate system for recording and extracting financial information.
iv. To what extent does accountability ensure judicious use of public funds?
1.10 OPERATIONAL DEFINITION OF TERMS
According to Aguwa (2005), the primary goal of operational definition is to remove ambiguity wherever it is likely to occur in the research work. Therefore where there is no likelihood of ambiguity, it becomes unnecessary to define terms. The technical or ambiguous terms used in this work are the only ones being defined.
MANAGEMENT: For the purpose of this research, management means or connotes ‘the condition of being prudent in the use of scarce resources.
ACCOUNTABILITY: Accountability in this research work is considered as the quality of being answerable to one’s action or conduct.
CONTROL: Control means ensuring that the functions of the different unit and agents in the public sector do not work at cross purposes but in rhythm to ensure achievement of corporate goals.
INTERNAL CONTROL: Auditing guideline defines internal control as “the whole system of controls, financial and otherwise established by management in order to carry out government business”
GOVERNMENT FINANCES: Government finance refers to the wide range of activities undertaken by government in financial and economic matters (The new Encyclopedia Britannica 1988).
ETHICS: Ethics simply put refers to what is ‘right’, just and what ‘just’ in the decisions and actions that affects other people as a financial or accounting officer or manager in the public sector.