•’We have set up panel to probe ex-AGF’
On Tuesday, the Association of National Accountants of Nigeria, ANAN, held its 28th Annual National Conference in Abuja under the theme: ‘The accounting Profession and the Challenging Dynamics of the Ecosystem’, with over 4,000 accountants from across the country gathered at the International Conference Centre to discuss new trends in the accounting profession. It also afforded ANAN members opportunity to interface with private sector and policy makers to chat new frontiers and gain from knowledge sharing.
In this interview, Dr. Imagbe Victor, Council member and Chairman of Imaging and Public Relations Committee of ANAN, bares his mind on the relevance of the conference to ANAN members, the impact of disruptive technology like Artificial Intelligence, AI, on accounting practice, what the appointment of ANAN members into Tinubu’s government means to the association and to the nation, what the association is doing to redeem its image from corruption allegations against its members and advice to government on cutting cost of governance.
He also encourages all accountants in Nigeria to embrace technology to be relevant in modern world, saying that with digitization of government systems, e-government has come to stay. Excerpts:
Tell us the motive behind the choice of theme of this conference?
Well, it’s timely. What it means is that technologies have come to change the way accounting is practiced and have come to take over some jobs of accountants. What that means is that it has come to reposition accounting practice, those tedious work we used to do in traditional accounting, they are longer necessary now because technology has taken over and those work are going to be performed by systems.
So, many new technologies have come to take over the functions of the accountants. The Artificial Intelligence, AI has also come but what that means is that it is a good thing for an accountant. What would take you time to do those tedious aspects like bank reconciliations and all those tasks can now be performed by systems.
With AI, what the accountants need to do now is that since they are the people that will think and be able to look at the data that have been analyzed by the AI and be able to give a decision that is very, very accurate. So that means that accountant work will now be more accurate, and now be able to work anywhere from the world, including remotely.
You mean technology will pose no barrier to accountants?
Yes, no geographic background or barrier, that is the essence of technology. And we accountants are told to embrace it. I want to encourage accountants to not only embrace it but also go for training and upskill themselves in the work and get more training and education so that they will be able to fit in with the new system
The Federal Governments just appointed one of your members as the Accountant General of the
Federation, what does that mean to the members and to the institution?
Yes, it is to show that ANAN as a body, we have new talents. We have accountants who are our members that have great skills and have great integrity that have sophisticated confidence and then have what it takes to transform an organization and to be able to get and achieve their goals. That is not the only position.
There are several other positions you will see ANAN members are heading today in this government. Some ANAN members are appointed ministers now, some ANAN members are appointed by governors, some ANAN members are found in several places.
In the academia, you will have more professionals that are ANAN members than every other organization. So, there are ANAN members everywhere because they believe in excellence, they believe in transparency. They believe in ethical standards. And so they have come to the limelight that we are looking for them. Even in the CBN you have a lot of ANAN members who are working in CBN and these people got this appointments purely on their merit. I’m a fellow of ANAN, I am the bursar of University of Benin. So, ANAN members are everywhere.
Corruption has been the bane of development in this nation since 1960, what is ANAN going to do to redeem its image?
Yes, it is a statement made by many based on their own observation. And of course, the blame goes to every profession in Nigeria, not only ANAN that is culpable in this regard. Well let me tell you that corruption is endemic and corruption has been in the system and you don’t need an accountant even to perfect your corrections because accountants will definitely work with instruction. And if instructions are given for you to do a particular transaction, haven looked at all what it takes to do that transaction is in order, but you may not know the intrinsic method of what they have behind that transactions. That transaction faithfully are based on the fact that you believe that transaction is normal. So, you are not involved.
So many accountants have greatly helped in reducing evil corruptions in this country because accountants talk about fraud, talk about forensic and we talk about things in line with laid down rules and procedures. And so, the fiscal responsibility of 2007 and all procurement art have given accountants a formidable position to write what’s wrong. And when you are alone, you know, it becomes difficult for you to do a lot of things. And now accountants are even told to do whistle blowing because we have agencies now that are helping you know, and to ensure that the corruption is reduced, that is the ICPC and the EFCC.
An accountant works in collaboration with these people because we want transparency in this country, because we want to eliminate the corruption in this country. But I tell you if the head of accounting officer or the head of government lacks the political will, corruption will still be there because an accountant cannot do all. We can only do the little we can do based on our position. Mind you, the head of every organization is not an accountant.
There is a chief accounting officer who is responsible for the funding and he funds administration of the entire organization.
So the accountants can only make suggestions and give advice after giving your advice and it’s not taken you have a right to do what we call whistleblowing and so many accountants are doing that.
Those are ways that we are checking corruption to ensure that we do things right. Where they ask you to do something about a transaction that is not in line with the financial regulations and the law, an accountant would always turn it down. That is the position.
Do you have enough regulatory framework in place to checkmate the excesses of your members?
Yes, we have put in place a lot of regulatory frameworks, the professional body has put in place its regulatory frameworks, the Constitution and other laws. Also, we have put in place regulatory frameworks because you have the books, we have the finance apps, you have the audits ordinance, we have the constitution, we have the Procurement Act of 2007; we have the Fiscal Responsibility you have the Appropriation Act, and we have so many Treasury circulars and all that. All to guide against the excesses of our members.
Do you think you have done well in disciplining erring members like the former Accountant General of the Federation?
You see, these things are guided. Accountants have regulatory framework to check their erring members. Beyond that, they have what we call professional pronouncement. Every professional has ethics standard. That means, if you misbehave, there are procedures to follow to discipline you. Processes are supposed to be taken to discipline erring members and we have disciplinary committees and all that.
You are talking about the former Accountant General of the Federation who has been indicted so to say, and they are having this called plea bargaining procedures?
We have already set up a panel and we’re likely to engage him to find out what happened because we want to find out once we discovered that you have been involved in a serious financial crime or corrupt act that will bring down the image of the profession.
It is our professional job to check in and once you are found wanting and after the process, we are going to delete such member from our register.
What will be your advice to government regarding the cost of governance?
Well, first you must understand the system, we are practicing what we call a presidential system of government. Presidential system all over the world involves a lot of costs. Because the President for example cannot do it all. You need cabinet members and those Cabinet members cannot do it on their own. They need aids, so having all these aids and those cabinet members which we call the ministers must involve cost in running the office, must involve cost in doing communication, must involve cost in transportations, must involve cost even in providing accommodation for them and all these are unavoidable.
But again, we need to also advise that where two vehicles will be okay, by a minister, they should not have this convoy that we now have, that is a long queue of convoys, whereby making the Minister to buy more fuel, you can reduce those transport costs or you can reduce the length of those convoys. And of course, you can also find a way of merging ministries. If ministries are going to do something similar, I don’t see a reason why we should expand them, you should bring them together.
And of course, some of us are advocating that the National Assembly should be a part time, so that we can reduce what is excessive money we are paying. That is my opinion.
What are your expectations from members at the end of this conference?
From this conference, I expect our members to go home with new ideas and shared knowledge because learning is continuous; if you are not current you cannot be correct. So that is one of the expectations. Again, technology has come to stay and all members of ANAN must embrace it and get themselves ICT compliance, they must go and learn technology so that it can be relevant in the present system. Our businesses in the world have gone digital. So therefore, if you want to work in any organization, whether private or public, you have to have this basic knowledge in technology.
With advent of technology, what are you advising government to do?
The government has already started digitizing its system long ago that everything is now almost digitized. Look at the government people now they are using the GPIS and GIFMIS system to perform their functions. This is an ICT system where you can even work, from anywhere you can make payments to via online payment system. In fact, you can do things from anywhere in the world.