Ahmed Idris: Nigeria’s Chief Financial Recorder
As the Accountant-General of the Federation, Alhaji Ahmed Idriss, is the principal public functionary responsible for keeping and interpreting Nigeria’s financial records. This exceptional gentle man was born on November 25, 1960 in Kano city.
Just within one year in office as the Accountant-General of the Federation, Idris left no one in doubt that he was there to sing a new song, that of transparency and accountability. Ahmed Idris has carved a niche for himself. At the Treasury Department, due process has become the order of the day.
He obtained his First School Leaving Certificate from Dandago Primary School, Kano in 1975, and West African School Certificate in 1980 from Kano Community Commercial College. He attended the famous School of Basic Studies, Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, during the 1980/1981 academic session for his IJMB (‘A’ Level equivalent) Certificate, and got admitted into the degree programme of the Institution in 1981, from where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Accountancy in 1984.
He later obtained a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) and International Affairs and Diplomacy Degrees from the Bayero University, Kano and the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in 1989 and 2006 respectively.
Before joining the civil service, Idris started his career as an accountant in the organised private sector from 1985– 1998. He later migrated to the Federal Public Service in 2000 where he is till date. Before climbing to his present position, he has been Assistant Director (Finance and Accounts) at the Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund (PTF), National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP) and Ministry of Police Affairs, Deputy Director (Finance and Accounts) at the Federal Ministry of Interior and Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation (OAGF), Director (Finance and Accounts) at the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and Ministry of Mines and Steel Development.
In the course of duties, he has attended many courses locally and internationally which broadened his professional horizon and enriched his competences. Idris is a member of many professional bodies. He is a Fellow, Association of National Accountants of Nigeria (ANAN), Associate Member, Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria, Associate Member, Certified Institute of Cost Management of Nigeria, Fellow, Financial Analyst of Nigeria and Member, Association of Certified Fraud Examiners.
Ahmed Idris was appointed to his present position on June 25, 2015 by President Muhammadu Buhari, who fired Jonah Ogunniyi Otunla, the occupant of the position for allegedly misappropriating N2.5 billion of security agencies’ funds. Prior to his appointment, he was Director of Finance and Account at the Federal Ministry of Mines and Steel Development.
In one of his outings when officers of the Nigerian Navy were on a four-week training programme on financial management at the Federal Treasury Academy, Orozo, Abuja, he urged the accountants and finance officers in government establishments, including those in the military to strictly comply with government financial regulations.
Pointing out, he said that was the only way to avoid humiliations in and after the public service. “As you young officers are desirous to contribute your quota to the development of Nigeria, I urge you to put into practice what you have learnt at this school, so that government policies on financial management, which is to ensure prudence, transparency and accountability can be realised”, he said.
He, however, enjoined the naval officers to take a cue from the ongoing fight against corruption, where well respected serving and retired officers are being called to answer for their actions in the past, urging them not to be over ambitious, but to observe the ethics and professional dictates of their jobs. There is no doubt that there have been numerous attacks from state governments and other stakeholders in the past arising from opaqueness and non-accountability in the management of government finances.
Ahmed Idris took the bull by the horn and delivered a template through the Finance Ministry to the NACOFED Team at Abeokuta 2016 on the way forward to end the perennial arguments between the state and the federal government on equitable sharing of the nation’s resources, notably, the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC). For the fact that the present administration’s mantra is tackling corruption in all its ramifications, transparency and openness are nonetheless key and the campaign has permeated the very fabric of the office of the Accountant-General of the Federation.
In his recent interview with the Economic Confidential in Abuja, he says: “It is a desire to institute discipline, good governance and trust. The government cannot be trusted if it says one thing and does another. The meager revenue that has been accruing is being judiciously used and there is fiscal discipline in management of public resources”.
How transparent can the government be when all revenues accruing at any point in time is shown at all meetings of the National Economic Council where all the Governors will be present.
For Idris, “whatever revenue comes in is shown at National Economic Council meetings including all the governors who will be briefed by the Minister of Finance. They have seen the openness and have accepted what government has put in place and the economic team. This is why we are achieving remarkable success amidst recession.”
The provision of adequate and timely information about government finances has been the deliverables of the Chief Treasury officer of the Federation. “The extent to which the public is availed of this information determines the level of trust the managers enjoy.
Therefore, the need for a transparent public financial management cannot be over-emphasized. Indeed, it is an essential ingredient for democracy and good governance. As the steward of the nation’s funds, it is expected to constantly provide adequate, current information to the public on its activities, so says Ifeanyi Okereke in one of his recent write-ups on transparency and accountability in management of public finances.
The entrenchment of Treasury Single Account (TSA) and Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) are some of the tools deployed by the government in ensuring transparency and accountability in public finance. TSA is a government policy introduced due to obvious shortcomings in the system. In the previous regime, revenues were not accruing the way they should. There were also leakages even in the little that was coming in.
There were borrowings associated with multiplicity of banks accounts being operated by ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs). The government felt there was need to bring sanity. Explaining more on the development, the Accountant-General gave a vivid and clear-cut example of some universities in the country. Some of these universities had before now over twenty bank accounts with huge balances!
Rhetorically, he said why will a university have over 120 bank accounts, and some of them even hidden and missing and carrying huge balances. On the IPPIS, it was introduced to enhance savings on personnel costs. It helps the government to remove names of those who are not supposed to be in the payroll. It has exposed ghost workers in various institutions of the public sector of the economy including the military, para-military, police, hospitals, and even universities.
Aside the discourse on the transparency and accountability stance of the AGF, it will be totally impracticable if there is no trained and dedicated workforce, including a wholesome welfare package to implement laudable programmes as espoused by the AGF.
The welfare of the staff of the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation is one of his cardinal objectives since he assumed office. According to him, It is even a core objective as managers of the treasury. He left no one in doubt that welfare promotes the best out of the staff apart from making them serve the system very well. The office has done pretty well in the provision of brand new staff buses sourced from public spirited organizations including banks, as the AGF stylishly maximises the opportunity created by the private sector on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
Meanwhile, he embarked in renovation of facilities and provision of infrastructure including auditorium and sporting facilities among others at the Federal Treasury Academy, Orozo. Majority of staff of the OAGF have testified on this noble development made possible by the amiable AGF.
Following his failure to disclose details of N57.62billion Federal Government grants and contributions given in 2017, Ahmed Idris, Accountant General of the Federation was queried by the Auditor-General for the Federation, Anthony Ayine.
The amount was given by the Federal Government as grants and contribution to domestic and foreign governments, public and private owned companies, academic institutions and internationals agencies.
Ayine in his audit report on the account of Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government explained that the breakdown and details of the grants and contributions were not presented to his office for audit. This, he noted, contravened the provisions of International Public Sector Accounting Standards 24 which deals with presentation of budget information in financial statements. A copy of the report, which had already been submitted to the Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly was made available to our correspondent in Abuja.
A number of major weaknesses and lapses in the management of public funds and resources were identified across several Ministries, Departments and Agencies during the annual audit. The findings range from irregular expenditures to failure to surrender surplus revenues to the Treasury, all running into billions of naira. Also notable was the continuing failures in the implementation of International Public Sector Accounting Standards.
Overall, the findings were indicative of significant weaknesses in expenditure control, accounting, financial reporting and in the completeness and accuracy of the consolidated financial statements.
Specifically, Ayine said non-disclosure of details of Federal Government grants and contributions would cast doubt on the authenticity and actual usage of such grants and contributions. He specifically noted that incomplete disclosure of budgeted figures might result in extra-budgetary expenditures. Ayine in the report stated that while the Accountant-General was requested to disclose beneficiaries of grants and contributions for the 2017 year fiscal period, he responded that the list would be made available to the Auditor-General on March 18, 2019.
However, the Auditor-General said that as of the time the audit report was prepared, there was no receipt of the list of beneficiaries from the Accountant-General. The report read in part, “The budgetary provision for grants and contribution was not disclosed in the notes to the accounts. “The sum of N57,624,929,461.05 was granted by the Federal Government of Nigeria as grants and contribution which represent transfers to domestic and foreign governments, public and private owned companies, academic institutions and internationals for 2017. “Non-disclosure of details of Federal Government Grants and Contributions will cast doubt on the authenticity and actual usage of such grants and contributions.”
The Registrar, Institute of Finance and Control of Nigeria, Godwin Eohoi, said the findings of the audit report should be investigated by the Public Account Committee of the National Assembly and necessary action taken against those that committed the infractions. He said the collaboration of the Public Accounts Committee, the anti-corruption agencies, and non- governmental organisations was vital in holding government accountable in the management of the country’s resources.
He said, “we need sound financial control system in the public sector to be able to check many infractions. A financial system that lacks strong internal control mechanism would be prone to abuses as we are currently experiencing in the public sector.”
Idris is married with children, and his hobbies include reading, academic discussion and excursion.