Anthony Mkpe Ayine: Nigeria’s Public Finance Policeman
In accounting, an auditor is someone who is responsible for evaluating the validity and reliability of any organisation’s financial statements. As the Auditor-General of the Federation, Anthony Mkpe Ayine, who was born on October 25, 1960, in Bokalum, Boki Local Government Area of Cross River State, is technically, the public finance policeman of Nigeria.
His Boki Local Government Area was created on August 28, 1991. It has a population of about 300,000 and a contiguous territories border with the Republic of Cameroun. Boki bears a national and international reputation for being a major commercial centre where forest and internationally quoted agricultural commodities such as cocoa, coffee, timber, palm products, etc. are sourced and supplied for international consumption.
The local government area is bounded in the west by Ogoja, north by Obudu, south by Ikom Local Government Areas while in the west, it is bounded by the Republic of Cameroun. With Boje its headquarters, Boki has about 14 major communities including Iso-Bendeghe, Bansan-Osokom, Nsadop Abo, Okundi, Iman, Bateriko, Bumaji, Orimekpang, Wula, Buardwr, Natamarte and Kakwagom.
Like other local government areas, Boki has its own culture and tradition which distinguishes it from others. As regards dressing, men use loin clothes upon a white long sleeve shirt and a broad to match with a walking stick, while women tie two wrappers upon a blouse and head scale.
Its major cultural and traditional festivals include Boki new yam festival, Irruan Boki Local Government Area, Edien festival, Borum and cassava festival. During these festivals and other social occasions, some popular music including Obam, Mgbe, Atam, Obon, Bekarim, Awaribo, Obashi and Enya-Atu are played.
And characteristics of any African society, Boki has a social life-style which was handed down from generation to generation include inter-village cultural dance, age grade meetings, circumcision festivals, burial ceremonies and communal farming.
Traditional market days in Boki include Okundi market day, Ntamarte market day, Kakwagom market day and Wula market day. The ubiquity of habitat for wild life as represented by the thickly forested vegetation and unique topology of Boki continues to be a delight for Environmental Action Groups and conservationists. No wonder Okwargwo Division of the Cross River Park, a brain child of the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) was established in Boki, it provides a spectacular opportunity to witness wildlife in their natural habitat.
This Nigeria’s public finance policeman graduated with B.Sc (Hons) degree in Accounting from the esteemed Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria in 1986 and went on to earn a Master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA) from the equally prestigious University of Calabar, in 1993. He was the Best Graduating Student in the Department of Business Studies in 1982/83 in the Cross River State School of Basic Studies, Akamkpa, where he obtained the IJMB ‘A’ Levels.
Anthony Ayine’s professional career is filled with sterling qualities quite early in life. Having passed the final qualifying examinations of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) in November 1998, he was admitted Associate Member of the Institute (ACA) in 1999. He was further elevated Fellow of the Institute (FCA) in 2010. Indeed, it is of immense importance to note that Mr. Ayine is a Certified Forensic Accountant (CFA) and an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (CITN) as well as the Nigerian Institute of Management (NIM).
He began his working career in the then Audit Department (now office of the State Auditor-General) of Cross River State in May 1988 and served until 1992 as Auditor 1 when he moved to join the then State financial institution, Equity and Investment Company Limited, in Calabar where he progressed to the position of Principal Manager in charge of Finance in 1999.
Realising the importance of his expertise, skill and experience, the Cross River State Government invited him back to mainstream Government Civil Service to take charge of the Ministry of Finance Incorporated (MOFI) in the state’s Ministry of Finance. In September 2001, Ayine was subsequently appointed Auditor-General for Local Governments, a position which charges him with auditing of accounts of all 18 local governments of the state. This was the position he held until President Muhammadu Buhari appointed him the Auditor-General of the Federation on January 12, 2017 after emerging tops at rigorous mandatory written and oral interviews set out for the position in accordance with the Federal Civil Service Commission.
His achievements over the years earned him recognition by his state government, where he was offered a position in the civil service to assume leadership of the Ministry of Finance Incorporated under the finance ministry. Ayine is known for his call for the strengthening of probity, transparency and accountability in local government administration through effective auditing, an action which is predecessors failed to do.
According to him, there should be maintenance of professionalism and uniformity in practice, as well as adherence to appropriate auditing standards, guidelines, codes of ethics and conduct. He said that auditors must be abreast with all standards and related guidelines to ensure efficiency. “The Auditor is seen as an embodiment of knowledge; therefore, beyond getting acquainted with auditing standards, must also arm himself or herself with other standards. “Such as International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS), International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) and other regulations governing the Audit Entities,” he said.
For him, any auditor that wishes to excel as a true watchdog of public finances and guaranty transparency, probity and accountability must be equipped with modern auditing tools and methodology. “The above aspirations can only be achieved through continuous seeking and acquiring of knowledge. “Capacity development, therefore, remains key to maintaining relevance in the auditing profession”, he says.
On assumption of office, Ayine embarked on several reforms, including giving capacity building a priority. He was quoted as saying “we specifically ensured that the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation applied modern tools and methodologies in the conduct of its audit. “These efforts culminated in the development of in-house Manuals, including Financial Audit Manual (FAM), Compliance Audit Manual (CAM). ” Performance Audit Manual (PAM) Information Technology Operational Manual and Quality Control and Assurance Manual,” he said. He said these manuals were in line with international standards so as not to lose sight of uniformity in application.
He further said auditors’ efforts should be geared at all levels to ensure that COVID-19 was not used as a conduit pipe to drain the resources of Government. He also said to ensure accountability of public funds, the Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation, within weeks of the lockdown occasioned by COVID-19, held a virtual meeting on the audit of funds related to tackling the pandemic. “As we move forward, there is need for continuous engagement and knowledge sharing amongst all audit institutions within and outside the country ‘’must ensure sustained uniformity in approach to audit mandate”, he says
Regardless of the level of corruption that has plagued governmental agencies, Ayeni was applauded for calling for the independence of the Office of the Auditor-General. He made the call while presenting the Audit Office’s 5-Year Strategic Development Plan in Abuja, arguing that it was imperative for the Audit Office to be free of all interference to allow for proper auditing and accountability.
According to him, “where the system you are auditing exerts direct control over your funding both in terms of what you get and when it is released to you in some instances also the auditee has to financially sponsor audit field visits, you can imagine the impact that would have on the effectiveness of audits and auditors’’, pointing out, “It is my belief that Nigeria needs an operationally and financially independent audit office that is free from external influence or control able to deliver on its mandate without obstruction and empowered to report its findings accurately and in full without impediment.
“With the ongoing economic transformation by this administration, all stakeholders will be aware of the need for independent audit reports in the performance and financial position of various initiatives across several sectors. “It is important to note that the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) may be able to commission progress reports from private auditors and consultants but the reports that actually move accountability forward are those prepared by the supreme audit institution of the country charged with the constitution to fulfill the oversight role.
Supreme audit institutions, he went on, work to ensure transparency and accountability in governance in a fast changing world. “Auditors need to sharpen their skill sets to be able to add value to society and remain relevant to their stakeholders hence the capacity building plays an important rile to keep the auditors service-driven”, Ayeni said, adding, “there is the urgent need for a major uplift in skills and technology.
“The real issue to be tackled in order to have sustained changes is the entrenched systemic weaknesses in public financial management across the majority of MDAs whether in procurement, value-for-money, project management, service delivery and emergency response.
“The solution will lead to sustained system wide improvement and the strengthening of governance across all areas of government endeavours is to ensure that the supreme audit institution charged with the audit of these MDAs is enabled ad empowered to do a thorough and independent job.” He added “in the context of Nigeria, and the major challenges, including corruption, the effectiveness of the audit office is hindered or weakened when the supreme audit institution cannot be guaranteed of minimum funding to meet basic needs to execute its mandate.”
He was also applauded for frowning at the 2017 budgetary allocation to the Audit Office saying, “it was insufficient and was a deliberate attempt to derail their work. “We wanted to increase their budget but we were afraid because people would say budget padding.” He promised full cooperation with the Office to ensure it properly discharges its constitutional duty.
While unveiling his roadmap as he stated that the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation (OAuGF) is a separate and independent entity whose existence, powers, duties and responsibilities are provided for under Section 85 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999. He reiterated that flowing from these constitutional provisions, it is obvious that the Office is saddled with an enormous responsibility. It was, perhaps, in realisation of this huge mandate that he recently challenged the management staff of the OAuGF, on assumption of office, an action that was commendable
Ayine was quoted as saying that besides President Buhari’s zero tolerance for corruption, an auditor, anywhere in the world, would be nothing without integrity. His words: “I emphasise integrity because integrity is the key for an auditor. As an auditor, if you take away integrity, you are completely gone. “So for us to fit in, in the anti-corruption crusade of the federal government, we must have the important virtues of integrity, transparency and accountability in our lives, before we go out to tell others to be transparent and accountable,” he said. Continuing he said, “it must start with us because this office is the office that has the constitutional authority to carry out this anti-corruption crusade even more than any other institution of government.”
Drawing from the inauguration of Donald Trump as US President, Ayine harped on the importance of an office. “During the inauguration of Donald Trump, we saw past presidents there because the office of the US President is respected. This is because they believe in strong institutions.
Once a president has emerged, they work to respect that office; it’s not the individual that is there, but the office. I would like to urge us, as we have said that this is a supreme audit institution in Nigeria, we should therefore work to project the image of the supreme audit institution in the country. This office is the symbol of the institution; so we must see that we build and work to project the image of the office”, he said.
Paying respect and making reference to Nigeria’s National Pledge, he admonished the management staff in particular to imbibe the virtues of faithfulness, loyalty and honesty as a true reflection of the country’s Pledge. “We have a constitutional mandate that working together we are able to realise and to achieve that constitutional mandate that this office has. When we recite the National Pledge, the importance of some key words of the Pledge should not be lost on us. Let us reflect on what the Pledge says: I pledge to Nigeria my country, to be faithful, loyal and honest.
“So, in our duty faithfulness, loyalty and honesty, all those virtues are required of us, management staff, so that we can serve our nation well; we must realise that those virtues are very, very important in the discharge of our duties, including commitment and the need for a high sense of responsibility”, he says.
In the course of his professional career and duty he has attended several courses and trainings locally and internationally which have expanded his professional horizon and enriched his competences. A thorough-bred professional, Ayine has also served in several special and strategic committee assignments, all of which fittingly prepared him well for the tasks and challenges at hand.
Anthony Mkpe Ayine is a devout Christian and happily married with five children. He enjoys football, swimming and reading in his leisure moments.