November 20, 2020

COVID-19: Financial experts urge FG to adopt Balance Sheet approach in public finance mgt

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Say no need to increase taxes now

By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja

As Nigeria grapples with dwindling revenue generation as a result of the massive impact on its economy caused by the novel Coronavirus, COVID-19 pandemic, financial experts, yesterday, urged the Federal Government to adopt the Balance Sheet approach in public finance management.

They gave the advice at the Association of Chartered and Certified Accountants and the Association of National Accountants of Nigeria (ACCA-ANAN) Sustainable Public Finance Conference held in Abuja, with 250 participants on the webinar.

A Professor of Accounting, Finance and Information Technology, Nasarawa State University, Keffi, and Regional Representative of Association of Charted Certified System Accountants, Prof Adebayo Adejola Paul, said the Balance Sheet approach to manage public finance will bring about a sense of ownership and ownership, hence it will instill a level of financial discipline to curb corruption as these funds whether borrowed or internally generated will be channeled into the right perspective.

Paul who was one of the panelists on during the discussion session of the conference emphasized that industrialization will go a long way to cut or reduce poverty and unemployment, and when we succeed to cut these down there will reduction in crime and insecurity.

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He said: “We have a lot of finances and when I say finances now I mean both borrowed, and like the Balance Sheet approach that is there is ownership and ownership; whether borrowed funds or internally generated funds what we need is to channel this into the right perspective, and how can you channel this in the right perspective?

“Industrialization, and we have seen this on paper, and where is the practical implementation, but I will suggest if the government can focus on industrialization because it will o a long way. Industrialization will go a long way to cut or reduce poverty and unemployment, and when we succeed to cut these down there will reduction in crime and insecurity.

Speaking the impact of the conference as Chairman, Conference and Publicity Committee Association of National Accountants of Nigeria, said the communique will focus on the fight against corruption, and not just on financial issues but appointments and other factors that bastardise the system with systemic corruption.

“We have said there will be a communique, and one of the anchor points in that communique is fighting against corruption. In Nigeria, people are complaining that some laws for the poor and different laws for the rich and until Nigeria get to that point where they are not going to discriminate between who is who.

“That the same stroke for anyone found wanton and you punishing the one that is less privileged while you are exonerating the one that is highly placed and that is corruption in itself.

“This corruption here is not on bribery or embezzlement, but you putting someone that is not fit professionally to go and occupy a position merely because he is from part of the country you come from or merely on religious basis is corruption on its own. So there are a lot of things to be addressed if Nigeria truly is marching towards greatness”, he stated.

On Accountants aiding corruption, he said, “What I will recommend in that case now is where we find accountants in ministries, department, and agencies in any corruption and it is proven that they are really involved either in embezzlement or whatever, like our Association we have a disciplinary committee and ICAN also have for that.

“What they need to do is write to professional bodies; we have seen people punished by withdrawing their license, suspension of membership, and I think that one will serve as a deterrent to corruption by accountants.

“I did also mention, for any fraud to be tackled from start to finish. Again, accountants don not have to do with policies but it has to do with human beings until the person you have positioned in the helms of affairs is able to do it right with the fear of God with the mindset that I am here to serve the people and not my family then things will work out very well.

On Anti-graft agencies, he (Paul) said, “I would not say 100 per cent but they are living up to expectation. We have seen a lot of cases people they have arrested and brought to book they look the other side and that is corruption.

“When I say systemic corruption has penetrated every nook and craine of the nation, we need a crop of new leaders that will have the people in their mind, and that may be a way out.

“For the anti-graft agencies, some places they compromise but in some places they don’t, and the general slogan like I mentioned earlier is like we are living in different countries, the law that finds this one guilty the same law looks otherwise.”

Other panelists called on the government to focus more on tackling unemployment, going back to agriculture, ban the importation of agric produce in order to grow local production, fix politics, address money politics, show more commitment in the fight against corruption, tackle insecurity, provide power and other infrastructures, action needed on government policies, the inclusion of women, youth and vulnerable in the recovery process.

According to one of the Panelists, Prof Aruan, “Since COVID-19 the public sector must play a leadership role, especially in the performance of public finance function, allocation distribution, and standardization. One fundamental thing is that it has become important for the government to establish a fiscal sustainability drive, and what does that mean?

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“It is the need to think on service delivery and financial commitments both now and in the future, and it is also important to address this matter that more than ever before that government should be bothered about the wealth, bank created from every Naira spent. So we have to enhance our public spending in a manner we can get value for money.

“It is also important to look at the revenue side that we must create a new revenue profile and depend less on tax increases, especially this period.

Meanwhile, the ACCA Nigeria Country Head, Tom Isibor, explained the motive behind the conference and said they are looking for alternatives that would help the government find a solution to financial sustainability during this period of COVID-19.

According to Isibor, the government needs to optimize its assets and not to take the low hanging fruits of increasing taxes, especially in this period that there is high unemployment, low oil revenue, and other issues.

He said, “The motivation behind this is that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused major disruptions on how we live, work, and obviously on sustainability. So we have to look at how to support and partner with the government I see how to find a solution to financial sustainability that is how we put this together to share our research findings and thoughts and just see how e can support the government in its effort of recovery.

“The presentations here focused on Balance Sheet approach to public finance management and that is basically talking about optimizing government assets rather than just taking the low hanging fruits of increasing taxes but just to rather worth government assets and improve and increase revenue. So these are some of the options identifying government and appointing government to options on how to increase the revenue base for the country.”

Speaking about the report with title presented at the conference with title, Presentation of ACCA’s Global Research on Sustainable Public Finances Through COVID-19’, he said, “The report presented today is seeking alternative or guiding the public sector on sustainable public finance on how not to perhaps take the easiest options, like increasing tax, but what else can government do in increasing its revenue.

“And like I said it is a Balance Sheet approach; how can you work your assets rather than just taking the low hanging fruits in increasing taxation because disposable income and everybody income is being affected by COVI-19 pandemic, people are not making money and if you tie that the unemployment rate in Nigeria at 27 per cent and that is the official data, people even say is weigh higher than that and you want the citizenry to pay those taxes may come and that is why we are looking at the alternative way on increasing revenue so we survive during this COVID-19 period.”

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