Financial Control and Accountability in the Public Sector


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This research deals with financial control and accountability in the public sector. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the role of financial control and accountability of public funds in Nigeria. The study used both primary and secondary sources of data to obtain information. For the primary source, questionnaire method was used, while for the secondary source, the use of text books and journals was adopted. The hypothesis of the study states that financial control has no significant impact on accountability in Nigeria’s public sector. The researcher used Chi-square as his test instrument.

The calculated value was greater than the critical or tabulated value, therefore, the hypothesis was rejected and the alternative hypothesis was accepted. The findings revealed that the reliance of auditor general on financial statement prepared by the executive does not enhance his performance. The researcher therefore recommends that the Auditor-General should not rely on financial statement prepared by the executive. Hence, the person to be so appointed for the post of the Auditor General should be a person of high integrity with the requisite qualification and experience in the field.


Financial Control and Accountability in the Public Sector




1.1       Background of the Study

Government activities nowadays have largely increase. The increase in government functions and activities come as a result of the complex the modern society. For government to live up to its responsibility, care must be taken in the management of scare resources available to achieve these laudable goals.

Other than maintenance of law and orders, peace and stability, government is also involved in providing social services such as provision of good roads, transport, portable drinking water, power and energy etc. All these service need money (finance). It is also the duty of government to generate revenue for the achievement of its set goals and objectives- creating social welfare and harmony in the society.

Finance is a critical resource in the chain of production and therefore must be prudently used to achieve results. It is on this premise that financial control and accountability in public sector becomes imperative. This research work attempts to discover the reason(s) behind poor performance by government in relation to financial control and accountability in the public sector.

Government agencies or the public sector is very heterogeneous in nature and so the nature of financial control is completely different from that of the private sectors in so many ways. At one end we have government owned companies that must be operated like private business, in the middle, our Parastatal, at are somewhat amorphous, often having conflicting goals to achieve and then the government machinery itself which is a services outfit.

Consequently upon the heterogeneous nature of the public sector, the financial regulations guiding the activities or financial transaction in public sector is contained in the saw setting it up. Some of such financial statutory regulations are:

  1. Finance (Control and Managen.ent) Act 138
  2. The Nigerian Constitution
  3. Financial Memorandum
  4. Financial Regulation
  5. Gazette
  6. Treasury and circular Letter
  7. Accounting manual.

These regulatory framework of public sector accounting mentioned above are applied in varied ways depending on the mode of operation of the government agencies or ministry. Amara (2009) sums up the benefit of financial control and accountability in the public sector as follows:

  • It justifies the estimates of public sector
  • It ensures and superintends the use o appropriated funds
  • It is device for timing the rate of expenditure and auditing of accounts

In the same vein, Johnson (1999) also list a number of importance associated with financial control and accountability to include the following:

  1. That it provides the broad and specific accounting system adopted in recording financial transactions.
  2. Ensure that transactions remain within the framework of law and further reduces the risk of fraud
  3. It provides the basis for financial management and control the Rivers state Ministry of finance is one of the parent ministries in the Rivers State Government. The state governor is the chief accounting officer of the state. He is the executive head of government and head of the executive council of the executive arm of government.

As the minister of finance is the chief accounting officer in the federal ministry, the commissioner is also the chief accounting officer in Rivers State finance Ministry outside the permanent secretary. The ministry has other departments and units, some of which include Auditing department, board of internal revenue, statistics and record, accounts unit, budget and logistics among others.

The ministry of finance is in charge of rendering accounts and controlling all financial transactions. The ministry through the accountant-general of the state is saddled with responsibility of general supervision of all the accounts of the different ministries and departments within the state, and prepares the annual financial statement of account of the state as required by the ministry.

The finance Ministry is vested with the statutory responsibility of auditing the state accounts as provided by the financial regulations. The Auditor-General is empowered by law to audit the account of all accounting officers and all persons entrusted with the collection, custody, receipts, issues or payment of public funds, (Adams 2001). Ministry of finance in the Rivers State government is populated with one hundred employees who make up workforce of the ministry. These are the people who are responsible for ensuring compliance with the laid down procedure for financial transactions as contained in the financial regulations and legal books.


Financial Control and Accountability in the Public Sector

1.2       Statement of Problem

Nigerian Public Sector is plagued with a number of problems. These problems hinder it from discharging its duties and responsibilities effectively and efficiently for the betterment of the people. One of such problem is that of financial control and accountability. Financial control and accountability becomes a problem when there is no strict measure to ensure compliance with the laid down regulations guiding financial transaction and accountability in public sector.

In other words, the lack of justification of estimate, Superintending the use of appropriated funds and timing the rate of expenditure and auditing of account constitute the problems which triggers this investigation. In addition to the above mentioned problems, other problematic areas in the public sector finance include:

  • Fraudulent practices by public officer and agencies.
  • Maintaining and operating proper accounting system as required by law.
  • Inadequate internal system in each unit.
  • Problem of poor coordination


1.3       Objectives of the Study

This research sets out to evaluate the role of financial control and accountability of public funds in Nigeria. Specifically the research has the following objectives:

  1. To evaluate the significance of the public budget as an instrument of legislative control Over public finance in Nigeria.
  2. To determine whether the reliance of the Auditor-General on the financial data supplied by the Executive enhances his audit work.
  3. To examine the quality of legislative oversight function on State Audit performance.
  4. To investigate the qualification of treasury staff on the number of financial records.
  5. To recommend measures on how to improve financial accountability in Nigeria.

Financial Control and Accountability in the Public Sector

1.4       Research Questions

The questions of this research are as follows:

  1. Is Budget a significant instrument of Legislative control over public finance in Nigeria?
  2. Does the reliance of the Auditor-General on financial statements prepared by the Executive enhance his performance?
  3. Is it possible to conduct a legislative oversight function on state performance?
  4. Can investigation be stepped up on of Treasury staff on the number of financial records kept?
  5. Can recommendation be made on how to improve financial accountability in Nigeria?

1.5       Hypotheses of Study

Ho: Financial control does not have any impact on accountability in Nigeria’s public sector.

Hi: Financial control has a significant impact on accountability in Nigeria’s public sector.


1.6       Significance of the Study

A research on the public sector, especially on financial control is very important. This research is significant in a number of ways. The research will assist financial policy makers in Nigeria and indeed other states in Nigeria formulate policies that will promote financial accountability. The academic community will benefit tremendously from this research.

Other researchers may use this research to investigate further issues on public finance control. The three formal institutions of financial control in Nigeria, that is, the Executive, the Legislature and the Auditor General will discharge their financial responsibilities effectively if the recommendations of this research are implemented.


1.7       Scope of the Study

The scope of the study is limited to public establishments, including the ministries, agencies and departments of government; other sectors like schools, hospitals, health centers, Electricity Corporation etc. though public institutions are not included in the investigation.

1.8       Limitation of the Study

A number of limitations were encountered in this research. The major ones include:

Literature Review: Getting materials for literature review was difficult. The cost incurred in obtaining the relevant materials was also enormous.

Questionnaire Administration – During the main research, we had to deal with an enlarged number of participants in the research. Since the questions were randomly administered, many of the participants were seeing the questions for the first time. Many of them felt that participating in this research would amount to “leaking of government secret.

Secondary Data Collection- Getting information on public sector activities difficult. But it is even more difficult getting information on financial activities. Information that is supposed to be publicly available is treated as confidential. Enquiries for financial information are viewed with suspicion. Other constraints include time frame for the research and lack of finance to carry out a proper research.

1.9       Definition of Terms

Management: For the purpose of this research, management means or connotes “the condition of being prudent in the use of scarce resources.

Accountability: Accountability in this research work is considered as the quality of being answerable to one’s action or conduct.

Control: Control means ensuring that the functions of the different unit and agents in the public sector do not work at cross purposes but in rhythm to ensure achievement of corporate goals.

Internal Control: Auditing guideline defines internal control as “the whole system of controls, financial and otherwise established by management in order to carry out government business

Government Finances: Government finance refers to the wide range of activities undertaken by government in financial and economic matters (The new Encyclopedia Britannica 1988).

Ethics: Ethics simply put refers to what is ‘right’, just and what ‘just’ in the decisions and actions that affects other people as a financial or accounting officer or manager in the public sector.

Financial Control: this is a means by which an organization’s resources are directly monitored and measured.

Public Sector: this is the part of the economy with providing various governmental services.

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