Ever since we began our democratic journey as a country, our story has been filled with allegations and counter-allegations among those at the helm of affairs, especially governors, about the theft and profligate use of our commonwealth. These allegations exist right from the top, down to the local government level. With the Fourth Republic now in its twentieth year, this series of events has become a never-ending story, a sad signpost in most transitions, especially when a new party is in power.
You would find this to be the most common pattern: a new governor takes the saddle—and as if it counts as one of his achievements—he, soon after, reels out figures about how indebted his predecessor left the state. In 10 cases out of 10, the predecessor replies with counter-claims that he left no debt in the state’s coffers. And countering continues… The recent instances in Ogun and Zamfara States ring a bell. In those cases and others, the reverberating question often is, “Who is telling the Truth?”
It is impossible to answer that question without getting any empirical evidence. The possibility of getting a proof becomes even slimmer knowing that the finances of many states in Nigeria are managed like a cult, where not even the electorates—who are the true owners of the resources—are aware of how well or otherwise their state is faring financially.
In many cases, even state governors are unaware of how rich or poor their state is, per time. This is so because there is no system through which they can get real-time account balances. With the lack of accountability and transparency in finance management across many states, the arguments back and forth among elected leaders would not come to an end. But it’s time we put an end to it.
Need anyone remind state governors and other government officials where finances are currently managed like a cult that 21st century technology has made all things so easy that with a click, at any time of day and from anywhere on the globe, designated officials in government can tell the financial position of the State, without resorting to manual processing? You know, this can put an end to the embarrassing media wars between persons who are supposed to be held high esteem by society.
As of today, the kind of technology in reference here is not even strange to Nigeria. The federal government currently uses one to power its Treasury Single Account (TSA) initiative, whereby all incomes and expenditure of the state are managed seamlessly and can be accessed without hassle at any times and from anywhere. A few discerning states across Nigeria are already also deploying similar systems, riding on the innovative power of technology.
Prior to late 2015, before TSA came to life in Nigeria, it was impossible for the federal government of Nigeria, as powerful as it was, to confidently know its account balances across all banks. This is because there was no overview of all government accounts, which were at the time spread across twenty thousand bank accounts. However, upon the implementation of TSA, now government has real-time knowledge and access to its balances across over 1000 ministries, departments and agencies. With this, if another government emerges at the federal level tomorrow, the financial position of Nigeria’s Federal Government is known to all concerned and would not constitute a reason for dispute.
To put an end to the sad trend where it is impossible to know the financial condition of States and government at other levels – and consequently causing a major stir, it is important for stakeholders to adopt technology.
However, beyond putting an end to the incessant controversies around which government officials have milked the government dry and which haven’t, the adoption of technology for the management of finances is crucial to help states better manage their finances, impressively plan for the people and deliver the ever-so-anticipated dividends of democracy.