PROBLEMS AND PROSPECTS OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT FINANCE/ACCOUNTING IN NIGERIA (A CASE STUDY OF NSUKKA LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA)

PROBLEMS AND PROSPECTS OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT FINANCE/ACCOUNTING IN NIGERIA (A CASE STUDY OF NSUKKA LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA)

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ABSTRACT

The title of this research work is, problems and prospects of local government finance/accounting in Nigeria” with particular reference to Nsukka Local Government Area, Enugu State.  It has been identified that accounting and financial reporting in the public sector particularly at the local government level was not given adequate attention.

In the course of carrying out this study, the following objectives among others were set which included.  The identification of major causes of maladies in the financial system of the local government; to examine the accounting department, to find out if it is manned by competent and qualified personnel, to examine whether the sources of income to the local government finances, to examine the various problems of the local government finances and accounts and to examine the prospects of improving the available sources of the local government finances.

To achieve the set objectives, some hypotheses were formulated which comprised: an increase in local government share of federation account from 20-25% would help local governments in achieving at least 75% of their statutory responsibilities, the employment of low caliber staff has a significant negative relationship with the low efficiency and productivity of local governments, the Accounting system of local government is not effective in operation and that another source of tax revenue is not essential for Nigerian Local Governments.

Two broad research methods were adopted in this study which were personal interviews and fully designed and well-structured questionnaires.  For the purposes of analyzing the hypotheses, chi-square (x2) technique was adopted.

As a result of conscientious and of course painstaking study done, a lot of findings were made which included inter-alia, there was an ample proof that the greater number of local government’s employees are unqualified.  Other taxes to be collected by the local governments can improve its financial base, the employment of low caliber staff has no significant negative relationship with the low efficiency and productivity of the local government; and increase, from 20 – 25% in the Federal Government Statutory Allocation of federation account would not be enough to detray a reasonable proportion of such responsibilities, embezzlement, receipt of huge kick-backs, contract inflations, large scale salary, fraud, auditing and internal control problems were discovered as some of the major accounting and financial problems of the local governments.

As a result, the following recommendations were proffered:  efforts to be intensified in the collection of revenue and continuously seek new avenues for local taxations, emphasis to be placed on the recruitment of qualified, experienced and well-trained personnel for the assessment, collection and general administration of local taxes and rates, design a sound system of budgetary control, installation of a system of internal control, projects to be evaluated and implemented, proper feasibility study to be carried out; and internal funding to be improved by its engagement in commercial ventures.

CHAPTER ONE

1.1            AN OVERVIEW

In Nigeria, there are three tiers of public sector administration – the Central (Federal) government, State government; and Local governments.  This project is devoted to the examination of the local government’s accounts, and the development of financial management with their departments.  It is therefore pertinent at this point to mention that the local government is the third tier of government in Nigeria.

Local government in Nigeria derives their existence from the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (promulgation) Decree No. 12 of 1989 and the civil service (re-organisation) Decree No. 43 of 1989 as brought about a new awakening to make the public sector virile dynamic, result and development oriented.  At present with the creation of more 177 local governments, the total number of local governments in Nigeria has therefore increased to …..   One would then guess what effects will it have.  Even before that, like since 1979, there has been a significant rise in local government expenditure in line with greater emphasis on grassroots participation.  For instance, in 1992 while complete political administrative and financial independence was granted to the local government.  From State control, its responsibility was enlarged with effect from 1992, local government has been directly responsible for primary health care.  This is in addition to its statutory functions.

Johnson (1992) said that, though virtually all developed countries have a system of local government, some systems involve considerable local autonomy while others involve less.  On a spectrum, the Nigeria systems probably involve less, rather than more autonomy.  Then the question and answers are important as they reflect that type of financial and accounting framework required.

Sharpe (1980) noted that the participatory value if not the liberty value, still remains as a valid one for modern local government.  Not perhaps in the full glory of its early promoters, but as an important element in a modern democracy nonetheless.  But as a co-ordinator of services in the field, as a reconciles of community opinion, as a consumer assure group as an agent for responding to rising demand and finally as a counterweight to incept syndicalism, local government seems to have come into its own.

The following points were listed in the local government’s favour by the Layfield Committee (1976).

(a)              It provides democracy

(b)             It acts as a counterweight to the uniformity inherent in government decision.  It spreads political power.

(c)              It embraces accountability because it brings those responsible for decision close to their electors.

(d)             It is efficient because services can be adjusted to local needs and preferences and because responsibility can be more decentralized.

(e)              Central government would be overloaded by more functions;

(f)               It provides a vehicle for formulating new policies and pioneering ideas.

As a result of increase in the responsibilities and the fantastic expenditure associated with them, it is vital that the local governments extend their sources of revenue beyond the present level.  They would endeavour to tap all the potential resources so as to see their revenue base fortified.  Any improvement to this effect will be welcomed as it would give the local government an added impetus in discharging its statutory functions and socio-economic advancement to the local inhabitants.

From the inception of local governments, they have been relying substantially on grants from State and Central governments and also statutory allocation from the federation account in addition to a percentage of the internally generated funds of the State.

As a matter of fact, the internally generated revenue by the local governments was very abysmal.  Now that it has been granted autonomy, it is statutorily required to rely more on internally generated funds for the performance of its functions.  This being the case, government grants and statutory allocation are only supplementary sources of revenue to the local government.  Babangida (1992) for the local government to self-sustaining financially without reducing the level and quality of its services to the people.  It is essential that it exploits all potential internal revenue sources which would supplement existing ones.  This as well suggests that the existing ones be adequately exploited and properly managed.

1.2            STATEMENT OF PROBLEM:

Finance and Accounting in local governments is probably more complex, than in any other part of the public sector.  In Nigeria, the inability of local governments to raise adequate funds and keep accurate accounts to sponsor its expenditure and activate grassroots development has been discovered as one of the major predicaments thwarting the frantic efforts of the local governments.  The purpose of this study, therefore, is to assess the problems of finance and accounting in local government so as to determine their prospects.

1.3            HYPOTHESIS:

Since this research work is on the problems and prospects of local government finance and accounting in Nigeria” the writer obtained facts chiefly through interviews and questionnaires.  Some hypotheses have been formulated to enhance better results.

HYPOTHESIS I:

Ho:    That an increase in federal government statutory allocation of federation account from 20% - 25% would not help local government in achieving at least 75% of their statutory responsibilities.

HI:     That an increase in federal government statutory allocation of federation account from 20% - 25% help local government in achieving at least 75% of their statutory responsibilities.

HYPOTHESIS 2:

Ho:    That the employment of low caliber staff has no significant negative relationship with the low efficiency and productivity of the local governments.

H1:    That the employment of low caliber staff has significant negative relationship with the low efficiency and productivity of the local governments.

HYPOTHESIS 3:

Ho:    That the Accounting system of local government is not effective in operation.

H1:    That the Accounting system of local government is effective in operation.

HYPOTHESIS 4:

Ho:    That another source of tax revenue is not essential for Nigerian Local Governments.

H1:    That another source of tax revenue is essential for Nigerian Local Governments.

OBJECTIVE OF STUDY:

Local governments like any other organization encounter financial and of course accounting problems.  These problems here in no small measure contributed to their poor performances.  It is therefore, imperative to mention that one of the major reasons for undertaking this work is the belief that for any meaningful improvement to take place in Government Accounting and finance control, the strands forming part of these systems must first be put together in doing so, the inadequacies inherent in the areas of each system would be pointed out and criticized or mentioned as probable areas for future development.

In carrying out the study, efforts should gear to:

1.       Identify the major causes of these maladies in the financial system of the local government.

2.       Examine the accounting department to find out if it is being manned by the desired competent and of course qualified personnel;

3.       Examine whether the sources of income to the local governments is enough as to enable it discharge its constitutional, statutory and/or otherwise obligations with ease.

4.       Examine the various instruments of management and control of the local government finances.

5.       Examine the various problems of the local government’s finances and accounts, and ascertain the financial autonomy of the local governments.

6.       Examine the prospects of improving sources of the local government finances.

1.5     SIGNIFICANCE OF STUDY:

Our local governments have in these recent times been riddled with financial and accounting problems.  These undoubtedly have stultified the unflinching efforts of most local governments to instill and of course restore sanity in the system, hence the need for a study on the problems and prospects of contemporary local government finance and accounting in Nigeria.

The study leaves no stone unturned in examining the problems confronting the existing revenue sources of the local governments and appraises talent revenue resources which could be used to fortify the overall revenue base of the local governments. 

This study therefore points out significantly that improved local government finance and accounting system in the cornerstone to the much desired economic growth and development.  It potentially serves as a guide to policy making in designing a better strategy for the rural development in Nigeria.  The study also forms a source of reference in other related topics and to researchers in similar topics.


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