1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDYInternal control according to Okezie (1999:43) could be likened to the heart”, which regulates the business blood”. No business could succeed without an effective control system. Internal control can also be likened to the brake and steering in a vehicle, which, if there are not there, the business “train” will cash. It can be likened to the laboratory or quality control machinery, which controls the quality of products produced by an organization. It is the centre hob of all financial activities of an establishment.Internal control is one of the essential means of establishing and maintaining management control of a business. It involves the entire basic element of management control and is itself the main element of the appraisal, measurement and evaluation control.Effective system of control is a prerequisite for the attainment of organizational goals, but it has remained one of the biggest problems facing modern day business. It is an extremely broad topic and of course is not restricted to the accounting field but embraces all activities of the organization.Generally, all aspect of humans endeavor need control. For instance, the business is controlled by the manger or director, the church by the pastor, theschool by the head teacher or vice chancellor as the case may be. All these are aimed at satisfaction, maximizing gains, ethical requirement, minimizing cost or losses. But these requirements cannot be met if there is no efficient and organized internal control.The consultative committee of accounting bodies in the United Kingdom (auditing guidelines 1985:5 defined internal control as “the whole system of controls, financial or otherwise, established by the management in other to carry on the business of the enterprise in an orderly and efficient manner, ensure adherence to management policies, safeguard the assets and secure as far as possible the completeness and accuracy of the records”.Internal control system is divided into two main aspects – Accounting controls and Administrative controls. However, for the purpose of this research project, effort is concentrated mainly on the accounting control aspect.In government accounting system, internal control is important because the essence of representative government is the existence of a system of checks and balances to safeguard the interest of taxpayers and other citizens. It may be described briefly as a disposition of operations and procedure whereby the accomplishment and recording of every transaction requires the participation of two or more persons. Supplementary of those conditions for constituting internalcontrol is the additional requirement of an interrelationship of records so designed that the occurrence of another or others.In recognition of the essential features of a good system of internal control, this research project will try to evaluate the basic element of an organized system of internal control as it applies to Biase local government area, cross river state. In view of this, the researcher will look at the various facet so the local government, and administrative policies of the local government, with special attention on how the local government records her transactions, system of authorization and approvals, segregation of duties as well as safeguarding of properties.The management of the public sector affairs is totally responsible for the establishment of the system it implores and internal control measures with that system. The concept takes into consideration the fact that human beings are not perfect. There is always the tendency for:Honest and genuine mistakes.Dishonest manipulation and deliberate distortion.Biased judgment and reporting.All these portray the overall weakness inherent in an organization. This therefore calls for a strong system of internal control, which is capable of producing the desired effects i.e. being accountable to the public.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEMInternal control in the recent years has being singled out for special emphasis. Most of the writers have written about the evaluation of the efficacy of internal control measures in public sectors and most often it has been treated as a problem. Some concentrate on the recording pattern, inventory control system, segregation of duties, authorization and approval procedures while some concern themselves with problems of physical checks.Internal control is often cited as the root of most problems in public sectors. Problems of internal control are given as the explanation for failures and miss-management in public sectors.Since internal control is the factor for the survival of public sectors, the researcher wants to evaluate the efficacy of internal control measures in public sectors. The researcher also wants to find the factors that contribute to achieving an effective system of internal control and the problems facing this. Some of these problems are duplication of functions and duties, embezzlement of funds, errors of omission and commission, over staffing, pilferage and stealing as well as wrong reporting of data. Why do these problems exist? And what is the extent of this problem on the overall performance of the establishment. More so, the researcher wants to identify the various criteria for measuring the efficiency and effectiveness of an internal control system. All these require investigations, and it is the aim ofthis researcher to find out solutions to the above mentioned problems with regards to public sectors.
1.3 STATEMENT OF THE OBJECTIVESThe local government has evolved into gigantic size and scope, including a great variety of specialized facilities and technical operations and numbering villages in tenth has made it impossible for the chief executive to exercise personal first-hand supervision of operations. He is no longer able to rely on personal observation as a means of appraising operational results, the chief executive has of necessity come to depend upon the units’ heads, head of departments, and a stream of accounting and statistical reports to control and direct the sector.The information made available keeps management informed as to whether the sectors policy is being executed. It enables the management to know whether the governmental regulations are being observed and whether financial position is sound for accountability.Therefore the objectives of this study include:1. To find out the rate of the application of a system of internal control in Biase local government area, cross river state.2. To advice the public sectors on the findings for improvement.3. To add to the existing knowledge of internal control as an aid to accountability as well as to make necessary suggestions, for the interest of the government that finances the sector.4. To make reasonable suggestions on the best way of achieving a good internal control as a way of controlling cost and safeguarding assets, aimed at proper accountability of public funds.5. To identify the likely factors that impedes efficient internal control measures.6. To make general and specific recommendations, this in the researchers view will make internal control to aid accountability in the public sector.
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONSThe following questions were used among other primary data for proper completion of the study;1. Does internal control provide desired effect or result in public sectors?2. Does internal control provide appropriate segregation of functional responsibilities?3. Does internal control provide a system of authorization and record procedures adequate for reasonable accounting control over assets, liabilities, revenue and expenses?4. Does internal control provides a sound accountability of records in the sector5. Does internal control provide sound practices to be in performance of duties and functions of each organizational department?6. Does internal control provide for preventing and detecting embezzlement, fraud and errors?
1.5 RESEARCH HYPOTHSESA number of variables must have to be put into consideration in trying to evaluate the efficacy of internal control measures by Biase local government area, cross river state. It is these variables that the researcher wishes to uncover in order to understand the role played by the application of internal control measures to the survival of the public sectors.Based on the statement of the problem and the purpose of the study, the researcher formulates the following hypotheses:1. Ho: Internal control does not provide desired effects or results in the public sector.2. Ho: Internal control does not provide appropriate segregation of functional responsibility.3. Ho: Internal control does not provide a system of authorization and record procedure adequate for reasonable accounting control over assets, liabilities, revenue and expenses.4. Ho: Internal control does not provide a sound accountability of records in the sector.5. Ho: Internal control does not provide a sound practice to be in performance of duties and functions of each organizational department.6. Ho: Internal control does not provide for preventing and detecting embezzlement, fraud and errors.
1.6 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDYThe research work of this nature will be significant to the government, business organizations, academic as well as the researcher.Often government establishment are accused of dishonest manipulation and deliberate distortion and thereby not being accountable to the public. In this view of this, the significance of the study includes the following:1. GOVERNMENT: It is hoped that findings in this research work and subsequent recommendations will go a long way in helping the state and federal governments achieve their aims and objectives through their establishment and find out how true the accusation is.2. BUSINESS ORGANISATIONS: Every establishment should maintain a cordial relationship with business organizations. The revealing of this relationship and what the government does will go a long way to put thegeneral public on the knowing of what the government is up to in terms of proper amenities and good infrastructure.3. ACADEMIC: By unveiling the distortions in the local government and unearthing some of their crimes, this study will add to the knowledge of dynamics of Biase local government area, cross river state and to the entire academic world.4. RESEARCHER: The researcher will gain a lot by involving himself in identifying some of the contradictions of policies and giving recommendations that will endeavor to reduce the shortcoming from local governments in the country.
1.7 SCOPE OF THE STUDYDuring research work, students are often faced with many constraints. To evade some of these constraints, students are now required to carry out a research, in a small area selected for study or to be used as a reference point for large area.This study is based on internal control as an aid to accountability in the public sector using Biase local government area as a case study. The study is also to examine accountability in public sectors and how internal control aids to it.Therefore the scope of this study covers a spectrum of Biase local government area.
1.8 LIMITATION OF THE STUDYResearch of this nature is always beset with series of difficulties, ranging from the problem of data collection, time, low literature and problem of getting the desired attention from the respondents. The major constraints of this study are as follows:I. TIME: This is one of the major constraints of this study to get the true research it requires. Interview periods are frequently shortened and sometimes rescheduled because of other engagements of the management personnel being interviewed. Also the academic work and other domestic problems of the researcher leave him with limited time for work.II. ATTITUDE OF THE RESPONDENTS: Some of the respondents were unwilling to disclose certain information for security purposes as well as distorted or biased report from the worker is another constraint. Therefore, the outcome of the study depends on the data collected from the state councils and local government chairman.III. LOW LITERATURE: Another limiting factor is the non-availability of adequate information involved in the study due to the fact that the local government was in the remote area.
1.9 DEFINITION OF OPERATIONAL TERMSSome terms that are used in the research are defined as the apply to this study. They are as follows: ORGANISATIONAL CONTROLS: According to Ifurueze 1995:111 “organizational controls are rules and regulations and essential procedure which identifies the organizational structure, define roles, allocate responsibilities and identify lines of reporting for all the establishment operations”. ACCOUNTING CONTROL: Accounting control according to Ifurueze 1995:111 “comprises the methods and procedures that are mainly concerned with the authorization of transactions, the safeguarding of asset, and the accuracy of the financial records. Good accounting controls help maximize efficiency, they help minimize waste, unintentional errors and frauds”. PUBLIC SECTOR: This is simply defined as, all organization which is not privately owned or as organization which lie in the hands of the public. INTERNAL CONTROL: This may be defined as the whole system of controls, financial or otherwise, established by the management to assist in carrying out functions in an orderly manner, safeguard its assets, secure asfar as possible the accuracy and reliability of its records, promote operational efficiency and encourage adherence to policies. ACCOUNTABILITY: According to Dan Oku 2001” as setting correct goals, evaluating the effective achievement of the major objective and at what price, presenting and interpreting this information to the public and accepting responsibility of failure. FRAUD: This means irregularities involving the use of criminal deception to obtain an unjust or illegal advantage.