Local Government Audit And Its Effect On Council’s Account
This study focused on local government audit and its effect on council’s account. The Esan West Local Government council was used as the case study. In the course of the study hypothesis was formulated in line with the research objectives. The sample for the study were randomly selected, comprising of employees in the Esan West Local Government council. The study employed descriptive statistics in analyzing the data gotten from the questionnaire. The chi square test was carried out and result showed that auditing of local government account in Esan West has helped to improve efficiency of revenue generation. The study concludes that the Local Government Internal Audit Unit should be facilitated by giving it the freedom it deserves in auditing of councils account. It is therefore recommended that accountants of high integrity be posted to the audit unit in local governments so that funds can be effectively safeguarded for the grass root development.
1.1 Background of the Study
In nearly all Western industrialized countries, there are well developed mechanisms that guide the management of local government resources. These mechanisms are embedded in the financial regulations. In Nigeria, the mechanisms are embedded in the Revised Financial memoranda for Local Government 1991. The Financial Memorandum stipulates the generation and judicious management of funds for the benefit of the entire community. Local governments, being government at the grassroots level, have the sole responsibility of catering for the citizens at the local levels. As Okoli (1998) rightly pointed out, that Local governments exist to fill the gap which the national government is too remote to fill, it brings the national government closer to the people and makes its impact felt in all the nooks and crannies of the society.
By implication, the national government through this medium caters for the grassroots. Local governments play vital roles in the development of the country. This third tier government is very vital in the political and economic field of a nation. Therefore, the aim of the provisions for the generation and management of fund in the Revised Financial Memorandum 1991 is to ensure adequate generation and proper management of fund so as to achieve the sole responsibilities of local governments. As Aborishade (1994) rightly observed, that the institution of local government is an embodiment of progress and is as old as anything one can quickly consider essential in the political and economic field of a nation.
The word local entails the involvement and participation of the grass root in the activities affecting daily lives of communities. It should be noted that these activities usually range from “absolute personal to extremely highly decentralized” (Oguonu; 2004). Whatever the case, these activities are usually streamlined, well structured and the application of bureaucracy prevails. Local governments were bestowed with many responsibilities and were equally bestowed with many sources of revenues to cope with these demands. Unfortunately, many local governments in Nigerian have taken this to be a filial responsibility.
Many studies in Nigeria have linked the poor development record of local governments in Nigeria to inadequate funding and limited financial autonomy. For instance Elekwa (1996), Agbuzu (1985) and DLakwa (1996) observed that local governments in Nigeria do not have substantial degree of financial autonomy to engage in any meaningful development. For instance, the Section 1.8 of the financial memoranda on local government audit authorizes the Finance Department to be responsible for:
The care and custody of the local government Funds, whether in cash or held in the local government Bank account.
Seeing that all revenues due to the local governments are collected promptly and properly paid into the local government Funds
Dealing promptly with queries arising from inspections or audits and keeping records of such queries showing how they were cleared.
In addition, section 39.3 requires the internal auditor to carry out all audit queries and sanctions not irrespective of who is involved. Below are some of the areas the internal auditor is required to carry out audit queries:
- Irregularities resulting in losses to local government due to either fraudulent activities of the functionaries to their negligence or incompetence.
- Payment through false certificate of completion.
- Poor quality work (building, new roads, etc)
- Shortage or losses of stores by storekeeper.
- Assets paid for but not collected.
- Payment of ghost workers
- Failure to collect local government revenues and also failure to account for local government revenues
- Over payment of salaries and allowances to staff. etc.
Source: Agu-Sylvia U. (2007)
An examination of the challenges of the local government audit shows that the problem of autonomy has long been the bane of the local councils in Nigeria (Andy, 2001). In each state there is an Auditor-General (Local Government) who is responsible for auditing the accounts of each of the local government councils in the state. Before 1989 the Auditor-General in each state was responsible for auditing the state and local government accounts. The split of these functions between the two Auditor-Generals may have reduced the status of the Auditor-General’s Office and may have had an adverse consequence on their independence (Andy, 2001).
In addition, although the Auditor-General (Local Government) staffs feel that they control their own work programmes, they do not have any formal standards or guidance and so could perhaps be more easily influenced by officers in the local government councils they are responsible for auditing (Andy, 2001).
The internal audit units at state and local government council level have relatively little independence. However, this may not be particularly important as they act as a management check on the accuracy and regularity of financial transactions rather than being an independent review on the quality of internal control.
The heads of internal audit at state and local government council level report to the chief accounting officer in the relevant ministry or to the relevant chief executive in the parastatal organizations; or to the head of finance in local government councils. This officer approves the internal audit programme of activities. In the ministry of finance this is the permanent secretary. Thus, the internal auditors at state level have much less independence than their counterparts in the Federal ministries. The purpose of this study therefore, is to examine the nature of the local government audit and its effect on council’s with particular emphasis on the account of the Esan West Local Government Council in Edo State.
1.2 Statement of Research Problem
This project work focuses on the local government audit and its effects on the council account. The position of local government in Nigeria today is not an available one. After the stir generated by the 1976 reforms and died down, we are again witnessing a decline in the status of local government in the country. Various problems such as polititicking, corruption, administrative inefficiency apathy and lack of trained personnel have continued to plague most of the local government councils.
Before and during the second republic, the director of audit report was not taken very serious, thus, not serving as a deterrent to checking fraud mis-statement and correcting the keeping of account half-heartedly.
Fraudulent local government staffers were not punished. Consequently, auditors were apathetic. Council account were unaudited for upward of five years (5)
The advent of the military regime in 1983, witnessed a tremendous change qualified audit report was used as one of the criteria for punishing fraudulent offices.
Consequently, audit report was accorded the deserved place of importance. For example, audit certificate now form one of the basis on which payments are made for benefits accrued to the council. Accounting records which had hither to been kept in half-hazard manner are now been well maintained.
It is not uncommon to see council accounts being audited for the year immediately proceeding the current financial year being audited.
This project work is to investigate into how the council’s account with particular reference to Esan West Local Government Council are audited; the effectiveness or otherwise of the external auditor and the effect of the audit report on the council’s account.
To this end the following questions are raised:
- What is the nature of local government account and their uses in Nigeria?
- Does local government’s councils account meet the stipulated objectives of auditing?, and
- Does effective auditing of local government account help in improving revenue generation? And these and many more questions are begging for answers in this study.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
Since local government in carrying out their powers and duties spend large sums of public money and they also generated revenue. It is necessary to ensure as far as possible that extravagant or illegal expenditure is avoided and that the interests of rate payer and the tax payers are protected. In order to achieve this object, it is essential for the accounts of local government council to be motivated and audited.
The mere fact that local government council are popularly elected bodies does not necessarily ensure that the funds with which they are entrusted will be spend with due care and for the purpose authorized by law and some further safeguard is therefore necessary.
Therefore, the objectives of this project include.
- To have an insight into the local government account, the nature of the accounts and their uses.
- To find out the extent to which the objectives of auditing have been achieved in local government council’s finance
- To determine whether the existing internal control system is complied with by the council
- To determine the needs for auditing local government accounts.
- To determine the effects of auditor’s report in managing the council’s account
- To find out the extent to which the objectives of auditing have been achieved in local government council in revenue generation
- To determine the various source of revenue accruing to them and its efficiency or otherwise.
1.4 Statement of Hypothesis
Having outlined the purposed of this research two hypotheses were stated and tested in our analysis.
- Auditing of Local Government Account in Esan West has helped to improve efficiency in revenue generation.
- Auditing of Local Government Account has not improve efficiency in revenue generation
1.5 Scope of the Study
The scope of this study is centred on the local government council’s in Edo state with particular reference to the Esan West Local Government Council.
It also centred on the structure of Local Government Accounts, sources and application of funds audit and it objectives, the internal control system and qualities of an auditor.
Whether audit queries issued to appropriate officers are answered. Attempt will also be made to present, where possible a description of the administrative process of the local government council in Edo State.
Nevertheless the scope of this project work is determined by large extent by the materials available.
1.6 Significance of the Study
It is primary function of an auditor to ensure that no money which are due to the council are unaccounted for. Therefore, an audit could control extravagance in the local government council as illustrated by the case of Roberts vs Hopwood in 1921. Since efforts will be made to find out how the council’s accounts are audited, and the effect of such audit on the accounts of the council. The effectiveness and efficiency of revenue generation.
There is no doubt that the findings will be valuable to:
- The council
- The internal auditor
- Academic students and
- Those who may have difficulties in laying hands on documents of similar nature.
1.7 Limitations of the Study
One is always bound to experience some limitations in carrying out such a strenuous work. Among the major limitations was lack of financial resources to travel to all the local government councils in Edo State to collect relevant datas. Hence Esan West Local Government Council was choosen since it operates the same structure.
Secondly, some of our respondents, though willing to co-operate, but could not give instant attention due to their crowded schedules. Too much time and money were wasted on waiting and repeat visits.
Thirdly, this study is limited to human error and bias responses some respondents would want to impress the interviewer to falsely gain credits. However, meanings may be read to the same questions by different respondents. Even though there was attempt to ensure correctness in all the answers errors of omissions or commission could not be ruled out in a study of this kind.
1.8 Historical Background of the Organization
In colonial Nigeria, local government functioned as Native Authority (system) in which the traditional institutions co-habited with the colonialist.
In some parts of the country (Northern Nigeria) where indirect rule succeded, the tradition and customs of the people were duly recognized and the Native Authority was built on it.
The beginning of the first phase of Local Government in Nigeria found its expression in the 1947 colonial dispatch to colonial governors by the British Secretary of the state for colonies-Greech Jones. In 1976, the Federal Government recognized Local Government as the third tier of Government. It influences is generally felt mostly in rural area where almost 80% of Nigerian populace reside
The August 1976 Local Government reforms was the Federal Military Government to give uniform application to the objectives of all the Local Government Councils, to correct the defects of previous Local Government system and on how to locate an authority accountable for the huge sums of money that it was prepared to grant to Local Government Authorities.
The defects of previous Local Government systems are too well known to deserve further elaboration here. Local Government have over the years suffered from the continous whittling down of their powers, lack of adequate funds and appropriate institution had continued to make local Government ineffective and ineffectual.
However, the 1979 constitution made some arrangements, in the 1976 local government reform one of such changes was provided in section 7(1)2 of which each state government was accorded an unlimited control over its Local Government
However, the military government of 1979 constitution reverted to the 1976 guided for local Government Reforms
The financial memoranda was introduce as the tool to ensure that the affairs of the council are conducted in an orderly and efficient manner ensure adherence to government policies, safeguard of assets of the council and ensure that records are accurately and adequately maintained.
The auditor general or his representative as the case may be in Edo State audit department and it the council’s accounts on regular basis.
This research therefore, intends to verify the extents to which the audit exercise has on the management of the council’s finance and improve the revenue generation. In order to achieve this purpose, one of the local Government Council in Edo State will be studied for analytical purpose.
1.9 Definition of Terms
For the purpose of this research work, the researcher feels, it is important to define certain operational terms. The definition of these terms would enable readers to grasp their usage in the project. The terms defined are:
Means a conscientious and objective examination of and injury into any statement of account
An officer of the local government charged with the responsibility for conducting internal audit of the management of the finance of a local government.
An officer in respect of local government appointed under section 152(1) of the local Government law of 1980
A local government established under sec. 3 of the law
The Edo State Local Government Law No. 1 of 1980
Local Government Treasury:
The department of the local government set up to administer the finance and funds of the local government under the finance and general purpose committee and in accordance with the provisions of the law; the financial memoranda and any other relevant regulations or instructions.
Finance and General Purpose Committee:
The finance and general purpose committee of the local government established under sec. 41(3)(a) of the law to manage and control the financial affairs of the local government.
A council constituted for a local government established under sec. 3 of the law
Instruments in relation to a local government council means the instrument establishing the council
Officer Controlling a Vote:
The officer appointed by the local government to control the disbursement of funds provided for under a particular head or sub-head of expenditure or other authorized accounts.
Any person who is authorized to receive revenue or other money payable to the local government
Every book in any means by which a local government officially acknowledges the receipt of money paid to it and the expression includes carbon receipts books metal and plastic licence disc, licence forms and commercial stickers.
The secretary of the local government appointed by sec. 77(1) of the law
Head of the local government treasury who may designated the treasurer, finance officer or chief finance officer.
Revenue accruing to a local government including capital grants or other grants and loans raised by the council
Any officer of emolument in the public service of the federation or the public service of a state
An instrument containing instructions which shall be observed and complied with by all local governments for the better control and management of the financial business of local government council in the state.
Summary, Conclusions and Recommendations
So far, this research explores the essence of local government audit as it enhances accountability in the councils account. The primary data ensures that relevant information were collected from the respondents in the Esan West Local Council. Findings from the study showed that that:
- Losses in council’s account is due to fraudulent activities of the government functionaries,
- The losses in council’s account are due to their (auditors) negligence or incompetence;
- Incidences of Payment, irregularities such as recording payment for ghost workers, shortcut invoicing amongst others have negative effects on council’s account.
- The Local Government Audit unit in most of the Governments is part of the Executive Chairman’s Office, and as such the Auditors work directly under the Chairman. Thus, arrangement places enormous constraints on the freedom and free will of the officers. The chance of their discharging their duties objectively becomes slim.
- Presence of low calibre staff who may be unable to charge higher officers and also assert their rights.
- The audit units are, at times, handled by unqualified staff with no professional training. This affects the quality of work and the extent of control.
- Lack of the needed freedom to work as an Auditor. Some Local Government Chairmen do not take kindly to situations where their financial activities are copiously sanctioned by the Auditors. Since the Auditors are responsible to the Chairmen, the overbearing attitudes of some of these Chief Executive constrain the necessary freedom of the Auditors.
- For fear of victimization it is not common to experience the employment of audit alarm” in the Local Governments. Where there are audit reports, .delays are always experienced in implementing or taking disposal actions.
The hypotheses tested revealed that there is a significant relationship between auditing of local government account in Esan West has helped to improve efficiency in revenue generation, also it was found that these findings have all been associated with the interference by top hierarchies in the council. The findings conforms to the work of Andy (2001), who argues that An examination of the challenges of the local government audit shows that the problem of autonomy has long been the bane of the local councils in Nigeria.
In view of the findings of this research work, it was observed that failure of councils to keep most of the books required by the financial memoranda and inability to generate sufficient internal revenue are mainly due to the poor educational level of most of their officers charged with such responsibilities and also partly to administrative negligence from the sectoral heads.
Secondly, councils do not adhere to strictly to the existing internal control system because stiff penalties are not melted on such erring officers. The Internal Audit of any organization ensures that financial information, accounts, procedures, and other finance-related matters accord with plans and extant guidelines. It is not a witch-hunting outfit.
Indeed, if the unit is effective, work is made easier for the Chief Executive and the organization w111 enjoy public confidence. The Local Government Internal Audit Unit should be facilitated; to carry out this delicate and critical function by giving it the freedom it deserves and by ensuring that Accountants of high integrity and posted to the unit.
If the unit exercises its functions properly, the ‘promise is that the much needed funds will not only be conserved but peoples’ attitude towards public money would change drastically the interest of the Local Government System.
The Audit unit of the Local Government has the potential of harnessing the resources and making the Local Government credible. It saves the Local Government Chairman a lot of headache and facilitates accountability. For these promises and more, it is recommended that:
- The Audit Unit of each Local Government should be well established with, sufficient paraphernalia of office, adequate personnel and space.
- The Local Government Internal Auditors should be sufficiently of considerably seniority. Indeed, as much as practicable, he or she should be of the same lateral rank with other Heads of Department, including the Treasurer.
- The Local Government Service Commission should make robust effort to ensure that it picks people of high and impeccable integrity before posting them as Local Government Auditors. In addition to this trait, the Auditors should be qualified Accountants.
- Local Government Chairmen should always be given to understand, in regular for a, that the Auditors serve their interest and facilitate their accountability. They should, therefore, give the Auditors maximum co-operation.
- The Local Government Service Commission should give adequately protection to the Auditors, especially those found to be working under a hostile environment. The commission should meet Auditors regularly for situation analysis. Any of the Auditors found wanting should also be disciplined.
- All audit reports should receive accelerated attention to enable /disposal action to be taken. This will help to sensitize the system and encourage prudent and judicious spending of public money
- Internal Auditors should, from time to time, be encouraged to attend, trainings and workshops that are relevant to their functions.
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