How professional accountants have contributed to Nigeria’s economic woes- Uba

A governance expert, public affairs analyst and Chairman of the Board, Amaka Chiwuike-Uba Foundation (ACUF), Dr Chiwuike Uba, has revealed that accountants have contributed to the economic woes of Nigeria in the last few years as a result of their professional silence and inactions.

Speaking Thursday in Abuja, during the 28th annual conference of the Association of National Accountants of Nigeria (ANAN),

on ‘Role of Professional Accountants in Economic Reforms’, Uba, a lead presenter, said some accountants have had opportunities to support economic reforms of successive administrations, but ended up corrupting the system.

The ACUF boss said poor management of debt and guarantees have created unnecessarily high debt service costs and could cause significant fiscal risks.

Uba also revealed that professional accountants play a crucial role in economic reforms by providing financial expertise and advice to various stakeholders, including governments, businesses and organisations.

He said: “Professional accountants’ actions and inactions might have contributed to Nigeria’s economic conundrum. I am expressing this opinion because some professional accountants, who had the opportunity to support economic reforms in the past, ended up corrupting and messing up the system even more. 

“In some instances, professional accountants, including one of the former Accountants General of the Federation, were involved in a corruption case that amounted to billions of naira.

“Currently, over 90 of Nigeria’s revenue is being spent on payment of interest on debt. Poor debt management procedures can lead to increased costs of borrowing, poor decision making and possible default on debt repayment with associated consequences.

“They equally play a pivotal role in promoting financial stability, transparency and sustainable economic growth. Professional accountants should, therefore, among others, play these roles: record, report and continuously monitor debt and guarantees and, based on monitoring feedback, provide expert advice. They should regularly monitor the ratio of average monthly debt service deducted from revenue.

“Audit reports need to include more forward-looking, qualitative and non-financial data in the field of financial reporting with more information on risks. Timely reporting of audit findings to generate increased value for stakeholders and enable real-time decision-making is key. The idea of producing audit reports in arrears needs to be corrected. 

“The last audited financial statements that are publicly available on the website of the Office of the Auditor General were the 2019 accounts. Incidentally, the account was published on August 18, 2021, which was 19 months, 18 days from the end of the financial year.”

Dr Uba stressed the need for increased communication of financial statements and auditor’s reports through the publication of the reports for public access, adding that management letters from public companies should also be made available more widely beyond sharing it with the audit committee.

 “Performance and accountability have become vital elements in the governance framework. Improving performance and accountability with an eye on delivering more appropriate, efficient and effective public service is the hallmark of good governance. The ability of professional accountants to defend or account for performance according to some ethical framework is part of the accountability framework.

“Audits, investigations and advisory services are required to reduce risk, improve transparency and accountability, and maintain the public trust. To satisfy this key element needed to achieve the objectives of economic reforms, professional accountants engaged in auditing should carry out Value for Money (VFM) auditing by confirming whether proper arrangements were in place to secure economy, efficiency and effectiveness in the use of public resources,” he added.

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