July 1, 2015
In recent years, the National Revenue Authority (NRA) has been transforming its accounting and financial management systems. According to the Authority’s Director of Finance and Budget, Abdulai Conteh, the changes taking place are geared towards addressing deficiencies of the past in terms of accountability.
“Our responsiveness to changing global circumstances has improved greatly. For instance, when she assumed the position of Commissioner-General, our CEO ensured that the financial management and accounting systems of the Authority were completely overhauled. Our financial management reforms have five main objectives: capacity development—modernizing and automating accounting systems, improving debt and cash-flow management, strengthening audit and accountability, improving efficiency in assets management, improving the quality of financial information and public disclosure of information. Thanks to these reforms, we have revamped our financial management systems by adopting activity and output based accounting, management and budgeting. Improved financial decision making and accountability is now the norm at NRA,” said Mr. Conteh.
Responding to some deficiencies highlighted in the 2013 Accountant General’s Audit report, Mr. Conteh said the NRA is already responding to the said issues cited in the report. He said: “An important consideration for improving the quality of financial information and accountability is the adoption of a system for revenue reconciliation. At the moment, the revenue reconciliation process is a very time consuming and manual process. I am however happy to say that the Authority is inching towards a more useful revenue reconciliation system that would provide sufficient financial controls and will thus be crucial for all financial reporting of NRA’s operations.
“Already with DFID’s support, we are looking at ways to move from the traditional to new practices in the immediate future by investing in a robust and integrated revenue reconciliation software. This will allow us to be more effective in tracking the transfer of tax revenues into the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) by transit banks. Definitely, with such a system in place, transparency will be stronger as it would ensure the effective and efficient collection and accountability of tax revenues, hence vastly improving the quality of financial information.”
Conteh noted that the introduction of performance contracting by the government where goals and performance requirements of government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) are now clearly specified, has strengthened the country’s Public Financial Management (PFM). He said PFM is particularly essential as it promotes accountability and efficiency not only in the management of public resources, but also delivery of services.
The Director of Finance and Budget further stated that government financial reporting is changing as a result of such reforms. “Together, these reforms are having a dramatic impact on the country’s public sector and financial reporting of the utilization of public resources. MDAs are now expected to proactively develop well-functioning systems for budget development, execution and control; effectively account and report all financial transactions; better manage their assets and keep proper records of changes in the value or depreciation of such assets. Moreover, the quality of financial information and public disclosure of information has improved immensely,” he said.
Indeed, parliamentary scrutiny of public financial management has been strengthened. This week, televised hearings by the Public Accounts Committee in Parliament in line with basic principles of parliamentary accountability and good governance were held. Strengthening the financial systems of MDAs, particularly an important institution like the NRA, is crucial for achieving revenue targets necessary for attainment of economic development and poverty reduction.