By Emma Ujah, Abuja Bureau Chief
The rate at which companies have been relocating from Nigeria to Chana is an indication that the nationâ€™s economy has become unattractive to businesses.
In this interview with the 45th President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) and the President of Accounting Bodies in West Africa, Mrs. Elizabeth Adegite, says Acting President Goodluck Jonathan should write his name in gold by focussing on providing Nigerians energy which she says is key to resuscitating the economy.
ICAN is undertaking syllabus awareness programme in institutions of higher learning in the past few weeks. What informed this programme?
In keeping with its obligations as a regulator and a trainer of accountants and accountancy in Nigeria, the institute reviews its syllabus from time to time. This has been done over the years in every two decades, every five years, in line with global trends and also in line with the requirements of International Federation of Accountants which is the umbrella organisation that governs accountancy practice worldwide
What do you intend to achieve?
What we want to achieve is that the type of accountants we produce will be contemporary accountants who are world-class that can work in any part of the world and will be able to meet all the challenges in the profession.Â Often we are now faced with three major areas as relates to syllabus.Â One is the issue of important components of IT.
In every sphere of life it is well documented and well known to us and so this is one area we want to make sure that the test of IT is provided throughout the syllabus at all levels.Â We also have the issue of ethics.Â Ethics is so important and vital and this is another area we have looked at in the syllabus. And then the area of multi-disciplinary case studies which we have as a major subject in the past.Â Now we have case studies in all spheres and all stages of the professional examination.
If you are reviewing the syllabus of students, would you say you have impacted on the capacities and competencies of the lecturers to handle the new syllabus?
Yes, I think in the first place it is important that we started off with syllabus review to look at the gaps they existed in any organisation, once you have fixed that it is to expose these syllabus to the institutions both lecturers and students alike. And like I said the students , yes in the tertiary institutions but there are other students that are not in tertiary institutions to whom we also expose our syllabus, so indeed it is to all accounting students prospective and existing students.
We are aware that the majority of students fail ICAN exams, especially the finals. What is responsible for this?
I do not think the majority fails but I think a lot of it has to do with preparation. If you prepare adequately, you will do better in exams but if you do not prepare well you will not do well. Again one of the things we try to do in this awareness programme is to expose them to how to pass examinations.Â Indeed we have three papers in all that we have exposed them to and we also provide them with interactive sessions for the three papers.Â The three papers are as follows: we have one that has to do with the basic requirements, we have one that has to do with rules and regulations and then the one that tells about exams rules and regulations and the last one focuses on how to pass techniques,Â on how to pass examination.
Not only this we do provide them with study packs.Â In the past, some never had appropriate text books but now they have needed text books.Â They have them on CD, and they can also download them from our websites.Â By and large students should be doing better but I think more than anything else, it is a commitment.
If you want to be an accountant, it requires hard work and you have to train to become an accountant.Â We do not just give out our certificates. We do not give it out to people on honourary basis.Â You have to work for it and I think we are not different from any other such institute.
Remember I told you we belong to an international group and in fact we have reciprocal arrangement with a number of institutions, who are world-class. If you want to be a world- class person, you have to be hard working, you have to be ready to be exposed to all those syllabus and be able to do well.
What percentage of your students do you pass annually?
We do not have any such fixed percentage as pass, any person who get above 50 per cent is passed.
I asked this question because I had discussions with some of your predecessors and one told me that ICAN passes about 14 per cent and that the percentage was very high.
Well, I do not know about 14 percent, 20 percent or 30 percent.Â I will not limit myself to any percentage.Â Any student who does, well gets above 50 per cent will surely pass our exams and will be given the certificate.
How do your members compare with their colleagues from similar organisations within and outside the country?
In advanced countries, I have told you that we belong to one group and that group is international Federation of AccountantsÂ so we compare very favourably.Â I for example,Â studied in United Kingdom, and am a member of ICAN and so what we bring to bear is what we got from other places andÂ things have changed since that time and we are getting better and better by the day .
With the claims of ICAN on ethical issues, many Nigerians believe that your members are not doing enough to uphold good corporate governance in the organisations they work. The frauds in both public and private organisations cannot happen without your membersâ€™ knowledge.
You have hit the nail on the head.Â CorporateÂ governance or governance at any level, be it in government, be it electoral,Â be it corporate or institutional, requires that the people who are at the helms of affairs are sincere and they are doing what they promise that they will do.
The issue of accountability, accountability and stewardship- if you own an organisation and you decide that you want to defraud your own organisation, who in that organisation is going to stop you?
You own the organisation.Â What the accountant can do is to point it out to you.Â You have accountants serving as accountants- that is preparing statement, keeping records; you have them serving as external auditors, you have them serving as internal auditors; you also have people serving in the audit committees.Â So at the end of the day, I think the issue of ethics is an individual thing and what we try to do in this country is to put in a code that will guideÂ everyone so that it is very clear to know what the expectations are.
Of course the application of this code is by and large, voluntary, it is not mandatory. And I think it is the same thing in most part of the world and when we talk about the management and the issue, the management is one category and the followers is another. All over this country we have this challenge.Â This is why we have been championing the course of transparency so that everybody would key into it.Â Lack of transparency creates a lot of problem for us in this country in terms of underdevelopment.Â It creates a great problem for us in terms of the divide between the rich and the poor.
As an institute, we have a disciplinary procedure for dealing with this, once there is any case and it is brought before us. Apart from that we have what we call the crusade.Â We have seminars that we arrange from time to time.Â In 2008 the main focus of our conference was on this issue of corruption. Sometime ago, we had a seminar here in Abuja flagged off by our intergovernmental relations committee. We also had one in Calabar and then recently in Kaduna.Â So as an institute we have a code of conduct for our members.
How effective is your mechanismÂ forÂ sanctions against members found to be involved in unethical practices?
We have an investigating body and any issue that is brought to our attention we look into it. I must say that some are correct and sanctions are taken by the investigative panel and some go beyond investigative panel and some also are frivolous and unsubstantiatedÂ so when cases are substantiated, they attract the highest sanction, we can even withdraw a memberâ€™s certificate.
That is why we have written clearly on the certificate that it is the property of Institute of Charted Accountants. Like I said we have a tribunal and it has the power of a High Court.
Would you say that in the last three years, for instance, there have been cases of such sanctions?
Oh yes, there have been several cases.Â In fact the court is open to the public, not only that we also put it in the journal . For instance if invite a member accused of unethical practise and he does not come, we can pass judgment whether the person comes or he does not come, we have prosecutors, assessors , like a proper court.
I think most of our members know this. By and large, we look at the issue of membership and we are dealing with it, but there is a bigger societal issue and I think that we need to face it from time to time, all professions, every human being should determine that look we want to turn a new life and move the country forward.
Take a critical view of the economy. Would you say we are on the right path to achieving Vision 20:2020?
We have had a few setbacks and I think the first thing is to map out the goal post. And I think that is what they have done. Whether we have been able to measure to the expectations, I think we Nigerians have higher expectations, particularly when you do something and you are going to do it by end of December 2009, for example when you say you are going to have 6,000 mega watts of electricity, we say it is okay.
We say you set this goal, so I think at as much as possible, both leaders and followers alike at all levels should try to meet expectations that they themselves have set.
If you were Acting President Goodluck Jonathan, what would be your priority for the nation?
I think we all know what our economyâ€™s priority should be: energy, energy, energy. If we get energy then every other thing will be fixed. That is the greatest challenge because a lot of businesses are moving out of this country as a result of this. I think that is the first thing to fix.
After that we are talking about what is happening in the economy. And every other thing that will make the economy to grow, we are looking at the issue of capacity building which is education, qualitative education for our children, job creation for the youths, these are all issues and of course the health sector not forgetting transportation.
ICAN have had a running battle with ANAN and ICTN. How did you settle with them?
We are an institute and we decide that we will live in peace with all men, so that also applies to organisational institutions.