ICAN seeks economic reforms to aid accountability in government

 

By Chukwuma Umeorah

As part of efforts to address some of Nigeria’s economic challenges, the 59th President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), Innocent Okwuosa, has emphasized the need for strategic reforms to enhance transparency and accountability in governance.

His recommendations are a clarion call for the government to prioritize the welfare of its citizens and the efficiency of its economic policies.
Okwuosa, in an interaction with newsmen in Lagos recently, stressed the importance of addressing the root causes of Nigeria’s economic woes. He highlighted the necessity of creating a conducive environment for the private sector, describing it as the “engine driving the economy.”

The ICAN President also called for restructuring and empowering agencies for accountability and transparency. “Ensure there are consequences for bad behavior,” he advised, emphasizing that the presence of professional accountants in key governmental positions is vital for effective financial management. He noted that former President Obasanjo’s tenure saw the creation of such agencies, yet there has been no significant improvement since then.

As a solution, he proposed the establishment of a Monetary and Fiscal Policy Coordinating Committee to be chaired by the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of Economy. According to him, “When we visited the Minister of Finance, we were informed something like that exists, but we cannot see the committee in action. Let the committee be visible,” Okwuosa suggested.

Highlighting the contribution of the Institute, he mentioned the ICAN Accountability Index (ICAN AI), which assesses and ranks the performance of Nigeria’s 36 states in public finance management. “Our recommendation to both the Minister of Finance and the Vice President and National Economic Council is that the ICAN Accountability Index be used as a framework to reform public finance in Nigeria. The effectiveness of this tool is evident as it has already prompted several state governors to seek improvements in their rankings,” he stated.

Additionally, Okwuosa pointed out that the ease of doing business in Nigeria needed significant improvement and advocated for the privatization of the refineries and a revisitation of the power sector’s privatization. “Declare emergency in the power sector and ramp up power generation and distribution to at least 20,000 KW. You can’t aspire to be a US$1 trillion economy and have a power capacity of 3,000 KW,” he asserted.
He further urged the government to tackle insecurity challenges head-on to eliminate the activities of bandits, terrorists, and kidnappers. This, he said, will ramp up agricultural production, reduce food imports, and hence reduce pressure on the exchange rate.

Okwuosa critiqued the current administration’s economic policies for their inadequacies, prioritization, and inconsistencies. He pointed out that while the removal of the fuel subsidy and the unification of the exchange rate were necessary steps, they lacked the accompanying measures to mitigate their impact on the economy and the vulnerable population. “Hike in electricity tariffs without addressing the challenges in the electricity generation, transmission, and distribution chain is another misstep,” he added.

Furthermore, Okwuosa underscored the role of professional accountants in politics and governance, emphasizing that they are the gatekeepers of accountability and transparency. “The most important profession in governance and the economy of a country is the accounting profession,” he said. He argued that the failure to attract the best professional accountants to the public sector is a significant hindrance to Nigeria’s governance.

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