The President, Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, Mr. Titus Soetan, says the various problems facing the economy may make the banking industry to experience more challenges in this interview with OYETUNJI ABIOYE
What are your plans for ICAN as the newly elected president?
For me, one thing we may need to do more work on is our engagement with the Federal Government. To me, our advocacy role needs to be improved upon so that we can help the government to realise its objectives and programmes, especially as enunciated by the current administration. We know that there must be accountability in government, and this accountability comes in various forms, especially as regards the way the government presents its financials and makes them to be relevant. So, we want to partner the government in the area of training to ensure that the government uses international best practices in the presentation and compilation of its financial statements. This will make the government to be accountable and relevant to the people that they are serving. In this respect, I am talking of the International Public Sector Accounting Standards, which advocates for accrual basis of accounting. This is one thing our present government is not doing. Therefore, there is a gap in what the government is presenting to the people as financial statement. So we intend to partner the government so that the right kind of information is presented to the public.
Does the IPSAS affect only the Federal Government?
It affects government at all levels, namely federal, state and local government. The private sector counterpart of the IPSAS is what we called the International Financial Reporting Standard. As you are aware, the private sector has keyed into this early and most organisations are IFRS-compliant in Nigeria now.
Are there other things you are doing to ensure that federal, states and local governments key into the IPSAS?
As I have said, we have started with some measure of training, but this is only at the Federal Government level. We will ensure we move to the state and local government levels. It is a big programme. If the Federal Government gets it right and the state and LGs are yet to do so, we have not arrived because they all spend the state’s money.
The anti-corruption crusade of the present government bothers on accountability as well. What are you doing to partner the Federal Government in this regard?
It bothers on the training of IPSAS as well. However, let me talk about corruption generally. Corruption has become very endemic in Nigeria, not only in the public sector but also in the private sector. So, when we are talking about corruption, I think we need a rebirth of values and reorientation right from the family level. Those people that are facing trial today do not come from the moon or sky; they come from the family. So, who are we celebrating in our society today as families, communities or groups. But if people who are corrupt are not having a place in the society, we are trying to eradicate corruption. That is why I said there must be a rebirth of values. Of course money is not everything; what you hold as value is important. When you have the right value, irrespective of where you are working in the private or public sector, you will be contented and you will do your job without wanting to cut corners. All of us needs to key into this and there should be enforcement of regulations. There should be the political will to enforce rules so that when people are punished for corrupt practices, others will learn lessons. Of course, people are corrupt in other developed societies too but once you are caught, you will face the penalty. This is what is lacking in our own society. And of course, doing this is not the job of one person. Even the judiciary has a role to play in ensuring that justice is dispensed expeditiously.