By Omoh Gabriel, Business Editor
Members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria are at each otherâ€™s throat over allegation of corruption, no regard for due process in the award of the Instituteâ€™s contracts, outright rejection of due process and corporate governance. Other ethical issues and suppressed anger are among the several things tearing the ICAN members apart.
Members say they are aggrieved because ICAN as the institute in charge of training and granting practising licence to financial gate keepers in the country, should be seen to be above board by all. The body of accountants, protesting members say, should lead by example in the conduct of its financial affairs.
Investigation revealed that matters came to a head when the Instituteâ€™s management singlehandedly awarded a contract for the redesigning of the bodyâ€™s website for which the standing committee on IT was not consulted. A project that was estimated to cost about N500,000 was given out for N5,000,000 for which a down payment of N3,000,000 was made.
The contract, it was gathered, did not pass through the Information Technology Committee but after it was designed, members of the committee were asked to make comments which a number of the members found very funny and spoke out. There is also the allegation that funds attracted by the Institute from donors are being improperly utilised and part may have ended in private pockets. Also alleged is the fact that election into the body is becomingÂ suspect.
Vanguard investigation showed that one of the aggrieved members in a mail sent to members stated: â€œBut you have forgotten a rider that an instruction can come for the Institute to pay the balance of N2,000,000 to the contractor and nothing can stop it.
The committee had on authority that the representative of the contractor met with the registrar or his representative that same day when the VP, IT Committee, head of department of audit, Finance and IT, System Specs representatives were discussing the way forward on the installed software for the finance department.
Keeping quiet does not signify ignorance or ineptitude but at times it is better to do so. I am surprised to read from the secretary emphatically stating that the management approved the scope of work submitted by the contractor for the first time. The principle of â€œnemo dat quod non habet appliesâ€ in essence the power you do not possess, you cannot lay claim to it. We are still battling to get a copy of the agreement signed several years ago by the Institute with one of the service providers and yet, issues of integrity and accuracy by our motto are being personalised or trivialised.â€
Another member said if there was integrity and corporate governance in the Institute, â€œa neater and more informed way forward should have been at a minimum that the IT Committee in assisting management should have done the following in respect of the website: Request for proposals by management with particular terms of reference and cost; management passes the proposals received to the IT Committee for evaluation;
IT Committee evaluates the proposals and make recommendation to management on the website development and costs; management reviews IT Committee recommendations; select one of the recommendations or reject all IT Committee recommendations; management communicates to the IT Committee its decision and basis for selecting a particular website proposal or its rejection of all IT Committee recommendations; management provides the IT Committee itâ€™s agreed terms of reference for the website development including the costs, contractor selected by management proceeds to develop the new website based on agreed terms of reference; upon completion, IT Committee is asked by management to review the website developed and ensure it meets its term of reference and the quality expected bearing in mind information provided for selection by management, IT Committee comments on the finished product and make recommendations to the management on whether the product meets the required term of reference and standards and send these to management; management either accepts or rejects IT Committee comments; correction or addition to website is made and if none, website is accepted as it is. But these steps were not followed as is always the case in the Institute.
According to members who for fear of withdrawal of their practising certificates are talking in low tones said thatÂ if the management of the Institute chooses not to involve the IT Committee at all in the process prior to the website development, then, the IT Committee has no basis to be asked to make comments on a completed project it has little input into.
Advising the IT Committee members he said: â€œIT Committee knows full well that it is management that ultimately makes the decision. Management in this case should then be willing and ready to accept such responsibility without involving the IT Committee on the outcomeâ€.
Vanguard learnt that an internal study conducted by ICANÂ revealed that the Instituteâ€™s finance department processes is still largely manual-based. Members doubt then the competence of ICAN to examine members on Information Technology if its processes are largely manual-based. According to the report of the internal study, â€œThe experiences of the various users of the SUN general ledger both past and present have been largely unsatisfactory.
It could not be ascertained that system study was done before the computerisation processes commenced. This has created a missing link which made it difficult to have usersâ€™ specification and requirements for which deliverables were supposed to be compared.â€
The report further said: â€œWith the absence of usersâ€™ specification and testing, computerisation processes will be by the rule of thumb. The SUN vendor, it was gathered, has not provided the required support even though the Institute has always fulfilled its obligation with respect to the payment of software Licence/Maintenance charge.
â€œAs alleged by users, the lack of fulfilment of obligations and ineffective support by the Accounting System Vendor led to the Institute abandoning the Payroll product from the company some years backâ€.
Vanguard further learnt that members at a meeting after deliberation on the accounting package requested that the representatives of website contractor, Designers of the new ICAN website, who were invited for a meeting with the IT Committee at 1pm be invited into the meeting but were informed that they had left having waited till 2.20pm. The committee frowned at the action and wondered why they could not wait to meet with the IT Committee.
The committee therefore decided that a letter be written to them expressing the displeasure of the committee. It was learnt that the vendor left because they felt they owe no obligation to the IT Committee which was not the body they got the job from and felt they cannot report to them.
The committee, Vanguard learnt, was angered by the action of the vendor and sought to know the brief given to the IT to enable the committee determine expectation while carrying out an evaluation of the new site. The chairman and secretary were not aware of any of such brief. The website, it was learnt, had been exposed for one week at the time for comments/suggestions which lapsed Monday October 27,2009″.
A member of the committee, Vanguard learnt, said that it is universally agreed that a document not pleaded or admitted at the beginning of a trial cannot be relied upon after the conclusion of written briefs by the counsels awaiting judgment of His lordship; N3.0 million out of the contract value of N5.0 million representing 60 per cent of the contract â€“ website design has already been paid before the IT Committee came into the website review issue; The issue is anchored on ethical principle of professional competence and due care.
Members, it was gathered, at the meeting raised further questions such as â€˜when are we getting a copy of the Systemspecs agreement? How soon will Akintola Williams & Deloitte commence holistic review of the System study? If we are to report on our activities since the beginning of the current Presidential year, do we have something to say as IT professionals?â€™
The meeting, Vanguard gathered, was unable to get volunteers amongst the IT Committee members to carry out the study and efforts made to nominate some members proved abortive as they all stated that they would not have the time to carry out the study. The meeting, owing to the inability to get members of the IT Committee to carry out the systems study, decided on outsourcing the task to an independent consultant.