1.1. Background of the Study
Accountability is the hallmark of modern democratic governance. Democracy remains apaper procedure if those in power cannot be held accountable in public for their acts andomissions, for their decisions, their policies, and their expenditures. Public Accountability, as aninstitution, therefore, is the complement of public management. Bovens (2005) opines that “As a concept, however, ‘Public Accountability’ is rather elusive.
It is a hurrah-word, like ‘learning’, ‘responsibility’, or ‘solidarity’ nobody can be against it. It isone of those evocative political words that can be used to patch up a rambling argument, toevoke an image of trustworthiness, fidelity, and justice, or to hold critics at bay”. The principleof public accountability in governments throughout the world is an ideal. It works on the basis ofthe fact that any office-holder, especially an electable public office-holder, holds his officialduties and responsibilities in trust for the people. In support of the above opinions on the conceptof public accountability, it is a universal truth that governments, especially democraticgovernments, derive their legitimacy from the citizenry. All government programmes andactivities are therefore assumed to be done on behalf of the people. Thus, the people deserve tobe assured that the resources which they put at the disposal of government, its officials and itsagencies, are efficiently, effectively an economically managed, moreover properly accounted for.
Public Accountability, thus, has three crucial components: a clear definition of responsibility,reporting mechanisms, and a system of review, rewards and sanctions. Public Accountabilityflows in different directions: upward, downward, between subordinates and superiors, andlaterally among professional peers (Adamolekun, 2002). However, the number and value ofpublic sector activities have increased substantially in the public enterprises and the increase hasled to the demand for accountability. At the Local Government level, all categories of workerstherein, need to render accounts of their activities to the public. The public in return, needs toreceive substantial accountability reports for proper assessment of their performance in theactivities entrusted on them (the Local Government workers). According to Agu (2008:36),“improved information about Local Government needs and preferences becomes the theoreticaladvantage of decentralization, but these are not guarantees that leaders will actually act on thesepreferences unless they owe some sort of accountability to the citizens.”
In order to ensure value for money, the process of fiscal decentralisation has been linked to the subject of accountability. It is being argued that fiscal decentralisation would not make the desire impact if local government authorities do not account for these financial resources. The success and sustainability of fiscal or financial decentralisation would largely depend on the capacity of local governments to institute measures to effectively manage these revenues, (Yilmaz, et al (2008). Promoting fiscal or financial accountability in local governments does not only lie on ensuring that revenues are appropriated legally, but by guaranteeing an institutional arrangement where roles and responsibilities of those involved in financial management are clarified to all. According to the “agency logic, mechanisms must be put in place to control self-interested managers and hold them accountable for their actions” Bednar (2012: 133). The subject of accountability is essentially a governance matter. As Sloan (2001:336) notes, “without governance problems, the role of financial accountability would be reduced to providing investors with the risk and return information required to facilitate the optimal portfolio allocation decision”.
Financial accountability in local government administration certainly goes beyond the provision of financial statements. As a governance matter, there is an element of role expectation and role behaviour in financial accountability. As far as financial management is concerned, a lot is expected from the conduct of schedule financial officers beyond the issuance of financial statements.Accountability in the financial management of any district must be held in high esteem if the district is expected to develop. This role is nonetheless, generally seen as the sole responsibility of the District Assembly core staff. But ensuring financial accountability in the District Assemblies is not the duty of the core staff alone. The Assembly members, who are the representatives of the local people, have to be actively involved. In fact, it is the responsibility of the Assembly members to hold officials of the District Assemblies accountable on the management of the Districts’ financial resources. This requires that the Assembly members have deeper understanding financial issues and the roles or responsibilities of officers associated with these issues in order to hold the right officials accountable.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
The Local Government Council takes direct care of the grassroots people, that is the people in the rural areas. These groups of people sometimes lack essential facilities and condition of modern civilization (Udeh, 2008). They lack pipe borne water to drink, do not have electricity, accessible roads, poor educational infrastructure and facilities to mention but a few.
This is one of the major reasons of rural–urban migration of movement. This has made our cities to be congested and increase in many criminal activities. Based on the above and foregoing assertions, it is oblivious that the impact of poor management of funds and lack of a transparent and accountable government at the grassroot level is a serious problem (Udeh, 2008). This might be as a result of corruption. If Nigeria is to achieve her desired goal of vision 2020 and possibly meet the millennium development goals (MDGS) target, a corrupt free government and accountable local government council must be established right from the grassroot level.
Faced with this problem of lack of transparency in the discharger of governance at the grassroot level, the researcher is set to examine financial accountability and performance of local government Khana Local Government Council in Rivers State
1.3 Purpose of the Study
The main purpose of the study is to survey financial accountability and performance in some local government councils in Rivers state Nigeria. Specific objectives of the study are:
1.4 Research Questions
1.5 Research Hypothesis
The research work is based on the following hypotheses which are formulated in tackling the problems in the subject.
H01: Accountability and Transparency has not put to check the circumvention of due process in financial and non-financial activities of the local government council in Rivers State.
HA1: Accountability and Transparency has put to check the circumvention of due process in financial and non financial activities of local government councils in Rivers State.
HO2: The inhabitants of local government council has not benefited from the proceed of accountability and transparency in improvement of social amenities.
HA2: The inhabitants of local government council has benefited from the proceed of accountability and transparency in improvement of social amenities.
H03: The process of accountability and transparency has not affected the official and non-official financial behavioral attitudes of council attitudes of staff in Rivers State.
HA3: The process of accountability and transparency has affected the official and non-official financial behavioral attitudes of council staff in Rivers State.
1.6 Significance of the Study
This research work will enable the researcher to survey financial accountability and performance of some Khana local government councilsin Rivers State.
It is equally expected that, the research work will help to provide solution which will be applied in improving the stability in the public sector. This study therefore, will expose the weakness of the local government council system.
The research can also benefit the academia in terms of addition to knowledge.
1.7 Scope/Limitationof the Study
This study as the case may be covers the nature of accountability and transparency in financial management in the local governments with particular reference to selected local government councils in Rivers state, Nigeria. The study takes a holistic approach in its research to unveil the challenges and problems hindering the proper accountability and transparency in financial management in local government and better ways of curbing them. The study also looked at the basic ways of fund and revenue sources in the local government and its disbursement.
In this research work, there are some constraints that affect the output of this work. One of the limitations is time frame given to this work by the school for the writing and submission of this project work as well as academic and personal pressure was faced.
1.8 Definition of Terms
Local Government: Is the third tier of government in Nigeria. It is the government at the lower level that has power of control our local affairs as well as the staff by carrying out its functions.
Revenue: Is fund raised by the government for public purposes and constituting of taxes, licenses, fines, special assessment.
Allocation: Is specified amount given or allocated to various local government in the country by the federal and state government to carry out their day to day.
Management: The achievement of organization and goals through an effective and efficient utilization of human and material resources.
Council: This means an area defined to carryout government functions.