Local government (LG) administration has been fraught with a
substantial quantum of crises ranging from constitutional to
operational crises. While the constitutional derives from the misty
cover given to the authority-status and functions of LG councils
(LGCs), the operational relates to inhibitions faced from the State-tier
of government and the veritable local crises within the LG system.
From whatever angle this matter is viewed, the crux of LG crises
anchors essentially on finance and the control of financial resources of
LGs in Nigeria. However, this article does three thing: first, it looks
at the ‘stakeholders’ i.e. the officers and organs that control and
influence the direction of flow of LG finance; second, the paper adopts
a critical, second order level of analysis towards appraising the input
and relevance of these key officers and organ; third, the paper attempts
to proffer pragmatic panacea to the volatile finance control crisis in
the LGCs of Nigeria. The study is a blend of academic insight and practical experience. However, the practical-empirical report, though substantial does not preclude the application of theoretical speculation particularly with regard to “re-thinking” LG finances in Nigeria. The article shows in the final analysis that the State of LG in Nigeria is inequitable vis-à-vis other tiers and it in fact amounts to the subjugation of LGs by the State and Federal government. The paper discovers that LG in practice is a mere appendage to the State and Federal governments. The question of LG autonomy therefore is a mirage. The gist of the panacea for enshrining an enduring LG finance system in Nigeria must therefore include the following. The status and functions of LG must be emphatically stipulated in the constitution without mincing words. Moreover, the disbursing federal commission in charge of federal allocation to LGs must shun corruption with immediate effect. Also, the motives of politicians and some careerists must change from selfishness to selflessness. Furthermore, LGs should be given substantial autonomy to manage their finances to a reasonable extent without excessive control from the State government. Finally, the elements of democracy, which are equality, popular participation, accountability, transparency and prudence must henceforth guide the conduct of official business and relations in all tiers of government.
The most important factor in Local Government since 1973/74 financial year is undoubtedly the direct involvement of the Federal Government in the funding of local authorities. This involvement has now assumed a quasi-permanent nature by the fact that it is now enshrined in the 1999 Presidential Constitution [see Sec 162 (3), (5), (6), (7), (8)]. Following the 1976 nation-wide Local Government Reforms, the expectations of citizens rose significantly regarding the quantity and quality of goods and services to be delivered by the Local Governments. Whilst it is true that the Local Governments up and down the country have provided services on a scale highly unprecedented, it is generally agreed that they could have done better. In particular, attention is always focused on the enhanced financial resources at their disposal.
Different people have identified different constraints limiting the effectiveness and efficiency of the Local Government. For reason quite obvious, finance in the Local Government has attracted considerable attention. To this end, two schools of thought, which are diametrically opposed have emerged. The first school of thought holds that too much money has been made available to the LG and so much mismanaged. As such, it is suggested that Local Governments have been so much a huge failure and that chances are they can never change for the better. They should therefore be scrapped and possibly made local offices of the state governments. This is obviously a reductionist approach to vital issue, an attempt to call for a “peace of the graveyard”.
In the opinion of the second school, the improvement in the finances of the Local Governments is hardly commendable as it is more apparent than real. This latter school points to the extreme variations in the amount provided by the Federal Government from “the federation account”, the unpredictability of the state governments’ financial policy on Local Government, the flagrancy in non-compliance with remitting the 10% statutory grant to LG by both the Federal and State Governments, and the serious impediments on internally generated revenue.
The two positions seem to exhibit some truism; nevertheless, the veracity and sustainability of the propositions can best be examined by focusing on the concept of financial accountability as well as the prevailing constitutional predicaments inhibiting improved efficiency in managing finances of LGs. With little emphasis on technical detail of these concepts, attention need be focused on the five major factors that seem to render the accountability in Local Government finances problematic.
- Defective accounting and auditing procedure and practices;
- Constitutional subjugation of Local Government finances and overbearing
administrative control by the state government.
- Ignorance of the political executives of the LG about their responsibility to
keep officials under constant watch.
- Widespread collusion among leading LG officials- Chairmen, Supervisors,
Councilors, Secretary to LG, Treasurers, Director of Personnel Management
and other Director to enrich themselves at the expense of the Public.
- Lack of control of LG officials by the elected executives.
- Over dependence of Statutory Allocation from “the Federation Account” and
less (or near zero) emphasis on Internal Generated Revenue.
These problems as enumerated have been made to form the bedrock of this paper.
Sequel to the crisis of effective governance at the grassroots in the Nigerian LG as (LGAs), the argument for decentralization has been very strong in the provision of olic goods (Wunsch &Olowu, 1995). Public goods directly affect only the person in al or regional areas and as such, sub-national governments often realize that the local authorities may be better able to conduct such activities. There are number of reasons for maintaining this position. First, the decentralization of government permits closer adaptation of the level of governmental activities to the preferences of society. To the extent that preferences for public goods vary among persons, the dispersion around issue level of preferences is likely to be minimized within a level unit than for instance in inter-unit.
Secondly, decentralization allows for more effective decision-making. The number persons involved is smaller; knowledge of costs and benefits may be greater as there is re direct tie between the benefits to be received and the real resources cost of providing services (Wunsch & Olowu, 1995). Thirdly, experimentation and innovation are treated as different units will try different approaches to problems and the successful technique will be adopted by other units. This is the general note upon which this paper as its departure with specific attention on the autonomy of this level of government in king expenditure and revenue decision.
One major lacuna in the 1999 Constitution is the evasive and tortuous manner in
which the issue of Local Government was treated. Inexplicably, the ability of LG to
actively perform the duty of “economic planning and development” of local area as
bedded in section 7(3), and efficiently performed the Herculean functions stipulated in
fourth schedule of the same constitution has been truncated by provision in the same
institution that implicitly allows for excessive control by the state government. A vicious
;le seems to have been created by provisions in the 1999 Constitution such as to make
LG the worse-off, at least in terms of financial autonomy [See Section 7(3) and Fourth
article and compare with Section 162 (8)].
In any democratic setting, it is bizarre for a government to be conscripted under a complete constitutional tutelage of another government. Every government, federal state, local, is totally accountable to her electorates (Wunsch & Olowu, 1995). When decentralization is properly anchored on the cardinal tenets of democratic values, the accountability of governments to the people becomes a useful instrument for sustaining the vision of services to the people in a local unit. Thus, in this sense, the realization of the benefits of decentralization and accountability must be seen as action and reaction; centralised governments will be able to provide services only if they are made adaptable to the people.
Accountability will serve as a mechanism for stimulating the use of societal and rural channels to generate the much-needed revenues to sustain the services to be added. This underscores the need for an organization to maintain continuous interaction in its environment in order accomplish its selected goals and to ensure survival. This be the missing link in the effective performance of LG in Nigeria, which is better reiterated in efficient management of LG finances (Orewa, 1996).
Quite a lot has indeed been written on how to improve LG finance or; discovering alternative sources of revenue for LG Councils (LGCs) in Nigeria (Sani, 1996:82-111,Prest, 1962, Adamolekun, 1980, Adebayo &Roland, 1979, Aborisade, et. al 1996, 50-68). The question of autonomy has equally attracted the attention of some scholar who hold that LG has not been getting a fair share of the federal bargain and that the situation must be redressed (Awotokun, 1996, 10-21, Ola, 1988, Nwabueze, 1982).
A Synopsis of the thrust of the Paper
The main objective of this work is to critically examine the roles and constraints of the finance committee, which is referred to as the Finance and General purpose committee (F&GPC). It invariably constitutes the executive arm of LG administration of the LG in managing the finances of the LG. In line with this, it is considered pertinent to examine the roles of (1) the state government; (2) the career officers; and (3) the political functionaries with respect to effectiveness and efficiency in managing finances of LGs.
The Finance and General Purpose Committee (F&GPC)
The role of the Finance and General Purpose Committee is of vital importance in the evolution and maintenance of a sound system of financial management in LG. This committee is one, and indeed the foremost, of the statutory committees to be established by a LG. The composition of F&GPC and its duties, underscores its great importance in the conduct of the affairs of the LG. The committee is usually composed of in the following:
Chairman of the LG … Chairman
Supervisors … Members
Secretary to LG (SLG) … Secretary
Director of Personnel Management … In Attendance & Notes
Director of Finance … In Attendance
The ‘Notes’ function, which literally means taking minutes of the meetings, is usually delegated to the Deputy Director of Personnel Management (DDPM) otherwise called Director of Administration (DPA).
The committee is, therefore, a small one consisting of very influential officials of the LG. The Local Government Edict prescribes that subject to the policy laid down by the LG, the F&GPC shall be responsible for:
- The regulation and control of finances of the LG;
- Subject to such upper limits as may be prescribed by the state government from time to time, the consideration and award of contracts;
- The implementation of the decisions of the LG for which no other committee is charged and for the general running of the affairs of the LG;
- The regulation and control of other committees of the LG as well as execution of their decisions;
- Such other functions as the LG may, from time to time, delegate thereto except the power of levying rate or tax or borrowing money, which must be carried out with full involvement of the LEGISLATIVE ARM, comprising of the Councillors of the LGC.
The functions of the F&GPC are packaged as omnibus and all encompassing. However, the regulation and control of LG finances is the duty that underlines the uniqueness of the committee. The question then is “what in practice does regulating and controlling the finances of the LG means?”“How should the F&GPC go about these onerous tasks? In order to ensure an efficient management of the finances of the local government, to what extent must the state government regulate the activities of the LG?” These and a host of other questions are very germane in a discourse on how efficiency in managing finances of LG can be achieved.
The financial memoranda spells out in detail the financial duties of the F&GPC. These duties are copious and they the following:
- to receive and consider annual estimates revenue and expenditure submitted by
heads of departments and thereafter instruct the Director of finance to collate
such in the preparation of draft estimate of the council;
- to submit the draft annual estimate for the consideration of the legislative
house in the current dispensation, the presidential system of government,
which allows for greater separation of powers, is adopted at the local
government level especially in the southwest. As such, the chairman is no
longer a member of the council as the case was prior to 1989. The ‘Legislative
House’ is properly constituted and the principal officers of the House
(‘Leader’, ‘Deputy Leader’, ‘Majority’ & ‘Minority Leader’, Chief-Whip’) are
elected in a manner akin to those of the State House of Assembly and National
- to submit to the legislative house proposals for the annual rates and taxes to be
- to examine all applications for the re-allocation of funds and supplementary
estimates and recommend them, or otherwise, to the Legislative House; and
- to exercise a general supervision over the allocation of revenue and the
expenditure of funds; etc
Perhaps, the most important of all in the functions of the Finance Committee is the examination of Draft Annual and Supplementary Estimates and re-allocation of expenditure before making appropriate recommendations thereon to the Legislative Arm. This indeed is the very basis of the LG in that it is very benchmark by which the financial resources of the Local Government can be adequately utilized. By and large, it would be indubitably difficult, if not impossible, for a finance committee to function effectively in controlling and regulating the LG finances if the reports, which it receives from its ‘financial adviser’, are inadequate, incomplete or incoherent or belated. This is the area where the Director of Finance must play a pivotal role.
The Director of Finance is the chief finance officer of the LG whose advice and counselling must come handy at all times. He is expected to be saturated with a wealth of experience and be ready at all times to discharge this to the chairman (the Chief Executive) and the entire Finance Committee for proper and improved efficiency in managing the finances of the LG.
As iterated earlier, budgetary efficiency of a LG underscores the extent to which a LGC would be able to efficiently manage its financial resources. It is in this connection that further effort would be dissipated towards expatiating on the budgetary process of the LG.
Budgetary Process in LG
The technique of budgeting in local governments follows the traditional “line item””procedure. The method is one of annual incremental approach where the New Year’s estimates are often based on the previous year’s expenditure. In Osun state, as in most western states of Nigeria, the dramatic personae in local government budgeting falls squarely within four major groups:
(a) Heads of departments e.g. Agriculture, Education, Health and Medical, Works, etc.
- Director of Finance and Treasury Department.
- The Finance and General Purpose Committee (F&GPC)
- The Legislative House.
This is the ideal. In practical terms however, the chairmen often assume a domineering role in the LGCs; a situation that usually leads to the hijacking of the roles and functions of especially, the House and Heads of department in the Local Government. Although one must quickly add that most Heads of Department often exhibit a lackadaisical attitude towards their duties and do often maintain a disposition of divided loyalty: one to the State who reserves the right to hire and fire them and the local government from whom they actually derive their salaries and other pecuniary benefits. Since the onus of public accountability rests on the LG Chairman, he feels justified sometimes to hijack some administrative/technical functions.
The councilors’ case is indeed ambivalent. The constitutional cyst that beclouds the functions of the LG tier of Government in the first place and the attendant multifarious interpretations by the State or the LG Chairman (depending on the driving interest) of the underpinning presidential ethos of the LG tier of Government places the LG Councillors in a quandary. Indeed, it might be regarded as a misnomer for the Chairman to usurp the roles of the aforementioned officers; nonetheless, it is equally considerable that his commitment to the electorates may precipitate him into taking such drastic decision even though he might be fully aware of the abnormalities.
A basic twin problem confronting LGCs in the budgetary process becomes readily obvious. The LG is bedeviled with excessive control from state government in the making and execution of budgets on one hand, and professionally indiscipline staff, who though often are quite versed but care less about budget execution and monitoring on the other hand. The LG is made to pass through a difficult and harrowing process for approvals of their budgetary estimates. This is particularly disturbing when one considers the manner and effrontery with which state Governments willfully “amend” LG estimates, which to us smacks of ploys to utilize LG to suit or actualize State Government programme.
In the process of such obnoxious amendment, many entries s get struck out or ‘moderated’ and many get included. This in most cases is done, not minding the need for which an entry is included or the senselessness of an included entry. Suffix it to add is that every LG is unique in its peculiar need and demand from the electorate A LG area whose major problem is epileptic electricity and water shortage, for example, not likely to welcome the idea of maternity centres, especially when such LG is already endowed with hospitals of different categories. These are some of the reasons why excessive control on budgeting is bound to be counter-productive. In trying to help, the handshake (from the state to the LGCs) is obviously getting beyond the elbow and the hup is becoming unbearably tight!
Accountability in LG
An important corollary flowing from the above is the issue of accountability.
Accountability is pivotal in a discourse of improving efficiency in managing LG finances.
The budgetary process as discussed above does not ensure popular participation and hence
cannot guarantee accountability. There are three incontrovertible factors contributing to
this. First, LG employee (popularly tagged “career officers”) are employees of the state
government, even though they derive financial support from the LG. the entire process of
recruitment, control, discipline etc. is the exclusive reserve of state government or its
appointed agency. By implication, these staff in turn owe their allegiance entirely to the
state government, their master de facto, rather than the LG (best described as pseudo
Second, the legislative arm which is supposed to represent the people is not empowered by the laws setting it up to be directly involved in setting priorities. Even where it is involved, the mechanism for preparing the budget hardly accommodates such flexibility. Whereas, the document setting out the function of the LG councillors states inter alia; The LG councillors shall perform functions:
- debating, approving or amending the annual budget of the LG, subject to the Chairman’s veto which may be set aside two-third majority of the members of the LG councillors;
- vetting and monitoring the implementation of projects and programmes in the annual budget of the LG;
- examine and debating the monthly statements of income and expenditure
rendered to it by the chairman of the LG.
(a) and (b) above reveal that the estimate would have been prepared before the participation of the legislature. This raises a serious question of accountability due to non-participation of the people through their duly elected representatives.
The above scenario could be worse when the political functionaries are “hand picked” as we had in the later year of last dispensation; a misnomer which seems to have been ‘legitimized’ by its adoption pro tanto by the present state governments throughout the federation. In the last dispensation, the aberration was conceived as a three-month arrangement and later extended to a year. The point of emphasis here is that accountability is further hindered because the appointed representatives are more likely to be responsible to the state, making a double mockery of grassroots accountability. Since the career officers, as earlier explained, are employees of LG, much in term of accountability is left to desired.
Virement and Supplementary Estimates in Local Government
Sometimes, instead of budgeting for additional votes out of the surplus funds of the authority, a vote controller finds it more convenient to meet excess expenditure in one vote from using a saving in another vote or several other votes in the approved estimate. This is referred to as ‘VIREMENT’. Virement occurs almost uniformly across Nigerian LGs. Directors of finance would attest that this becomes inevitable given the irregularities in the inflow of revenue from Federal Government and erratic policy changes that put unexpected pressure on LG finances. Virement is permissible; but it requires approval by the F&GPC.
In addition, existing LG laws allow local authorities to incur supplementary expenditures under conditions similar to those for the approval of the annual budgets. After full discussion by the Finance and GPC and the House, the LG goes ahead to seek for approval with the State government.
The essence of this section in improving efficiency in managing LG cannot be over-emphasized. Without much ado, the process of virement and/or supplementary estimate requires a team of seasoned and disciplined financial officers if the finances of the LG were not to be derailed. Any attempt to lose the two senses and competence and sincerity of purpose might plunge the LG into financial problems technically tagged mal-appropriation of fund. Expenditure Efficiency of LGS
Since this paper hub on improved efficiency in managing LG finances, it is appropriate to examine the expenditure of the LG in a critical manner. By expenditure, we mean how” expenditure allocations from the budget are utilized to achieve the best overall result for which the vote is due.
Expenditure is normally classified into two broad categories – recurrent and capital. While the former is meant to service and sustain existing human and material resources of the LG, the latter relates to the acquisition of new estates. Recurrent expenditure is often further broken down into personnel and overhead costs. Not infrequently, after approval has been obtained, it becomes clear that votes must be spent and this is exactly where LG finances suffer its greatest setbacks. In the process of spending the votes, several misdeeds are often committed; some border on technicality while some on corrupt intent and purpose.
It is wrong to assume that once the budget for a given year has been approved, the LG is necessarily free to spend the votes allocated in the budget without restraint and regardless of its overall financial position. This is not the case. State government is aware of the temptations to reckless spending by local authorities, if left to unrestrained, ft is therefore an important part of the duty of the Director of Finance to keep the financial state of the LG under review, in particular the progress of revenue allocation and its relation to expenditure growth, and to advise the F&GPC on steps necessary to maintain equilibrium between the two. This is the beginning of expenditure efficiency in financial management.
Critical Remarks on Nigerian LG Finance
A disproportionate portion of LG revenue (as much as between 50%-90%) is committed to recurrent expenditure. Even within this, personnel cost account for more than 70% over the overhead cost. This is due to the over-bloated personnel strength of the LGs.Capital expenditure continues to dwindle and in some LG approaching a single digit. There are pockets of carefully packaged financial abuses, which often derail the expenditure profile of LGs.
Managing LG Finances
Managing LG finances is seen here as being coterminous with accountability andexpenditure efficiency both of which have been explained above. To achieve this, a number of salient factors becomes imperative for consideration.
Budgeting is central to financial prudence of any administration. In fact, if the finance of an organization is of anything to go by, then, the budgeting must of necessity be standardized. It is found expedient to emphasis the importance of this aspect of finance because it underlies the very concept of financial management. Certainly, where it is allowed that budget is fraught with inconsistency, impropriety and represents the copious official statements of the government without any commitment to rigid adherence. The raison d’etre for ensuring good budgeting in LG and ensure accountability is the very basis of control which state governments exert on the LG. The control must be stringent but not to stifle accountability nor hamper creative financial management. By and large, a number of measures must be ensured in order to improve efficiency in LG finances. Some of these are discussed in the succeeding section.
The Vote Controllers
The vote controllers of the LG must be made responsible for his actions and inactions. By responsibility, we do not mean that a vote controller should not stand in the way of development especially in a democratic dispensation that we currently have on ground, where electorate are always eager to reap dividends as soon as possible. The responsibility of a vote controller must be such that the votes must be spent according to the exact purpose of the budgetary estimate except for some urgent and highly compelling and genuine reasons.
Over the time, this officer of the LG that has always escaped the eagle’s eye of monitoring and public outcry but without whom any sharp practices could not have been perpetuated. Through a vote controller, a great deal of accountability can be ensured. Unfortunately, all eyes are always on the Chairman and other political as well as principal career officers, however, It is our considered opinion that closer watch should be beamed on vote controllers for a better clean bill of financial prudence in LG.
The Heads of Department (HOD)
Since this paper is not concerned with general administration of LG in Osun State,we shall confine ourselves to the role of HOD in ensuring effective and efficient financial management. If the HOD is to provide dynamic leadership in financial management;
- He needs to develop a strong and accommodating team spirit linked to cost-
consciousness, in the department;
- He should ensure effective control of all votes of the department and ensure that
funds are prudently and economically expended on the assigned purposes;
- The annual estimate of his/her department must take cognisance of the realities of
current costs and of what is achievable as in fund availability and time frame;
- Insistence on full and prompt accountability for funds without any iota of
- Finally, the need to cooperate with the political functionaries in the deployment of
good programmes is essential without necessarily compromising financial
The Directors of Finance (DF)
The Director of Finance is the head of finance department, hence the name. The effectiveness of the DF is pivotal to efficiency in financial management owing to the following reasons:
- The Directors of Finance is the LG Chief accounts officers and in a way the custodian of LG funds;
- The DF is the Chief financial adviser to the Chairman of the LG, thus ensuring
that the financial policies of the LG are kept within bounds and limits;
- The Chief vote controller of the LG is the DF and thus, he possesses the ultimate
authority for wastage blockage and mis-appropriation prevention in the LG.
Arising from the foregoing, it is clear that the DF in all his capacities stated above can be seen as the Chief financial officer of the LG on whose shoulders, the efficient financial management of the LG lies; and from whom explanation is expected for any unconscionable and improper management of LG finances.
Of course, the sincerity of purpose in DF is sine qua non towards the use of the available fund in the development of the LG area. In civilian times, the DF is under more pressures as politicians are bound to want to solve problems using “political magic wands. Even his co-career officers often see themselves as being part of the electorate and thus may sometimes exhibit financial indiscipline expecting that authority should ‘understand’. The duty of the DF whatsoever is to insist on full compliance to financial rules and regulations. A good DF would also know and cooperate (not collaborate) when such is necessary for the simple sake of progress and development.
This paper is timely. It has come at a time when some uncritical elements in Nigeria are clamouring for total eradications of the LG system. There are also those who submit that LG should be made an appendage of the State government and as such, the functionaries therein should be appointed rather than elected.
Both groups of people have hinged their propositions on the widespread financial mismanagement commonly associated with local governments in Nigeria. By virtue of Sec 7(1) of the 1999 constitution, which expressly guarantees a system of local government by democratically elected LGCs, the local governments cannot be legally eradicated nor supplanted by a government of whatever nomenclature. The only issue at stake is the allegation of widespread corruption.
However, corruption is not a problem known only with LG! Corruption is a general problem that is present in nearly all sectors of Nigeria from federal government to state government; and from public sector to private establishments. Accordingly, the argument that LG be scrapped due to financial mis-management is reductionist for it can as well mean that all institutions in Nigeria and in fact presumably elsewhere be dissolved. Without any attempt to be polemic, this paper is thus a part of a larger compendium of educative discourse against this campaign of calumny against the constitutionally recognized status and existence of LG in Nigeria.
Recommendations and Conclusions
Nigerians (both in government and out) must brace up with the fact that this country is not too rich as to ignore wastage of her limited financial resources through mismanagements. Thus, the need for efficient and effective management of public finances, including the country’s incomes and expenditure cannot be overemphasized.
Moreover, as we claim to practice democracy in our body polity, we must allow the virtues of democracy such as equity, equality, liberty, popular participation, accountability, transparency, plurality of policy options and un-gagged this of information to characterize and sharpen our attitudinal disposition as well as our political conducts.
It is not enough to suggest the eradication of LG system due to widespread impropriety in financial management. Nigeria is sick from head to toe with corruption. What we need now is how to make the present LGs viable and more accountable and responsible to especially local electorates.
In any meaningful democratic system of LG, as opposed to a system of ‘de-concentrated’ Central government departments, local authorities should have the discretion to decide whether or not to include certain items of revenue and expenditure in their annual estimates according .to the peculiarities of the local people they are meant to govern. This must be done without necessarily having to obtain approvals from higher authorities. Control over LG need be extensive and not excessive. It is our considered opinion that rather than dictate to LGs the programme they should embark upon proper budgetary control starts at the end of the preparation of budget. Even this subsequent control must be discharged with a view to ensuring improved efficiency in managing LG finances.
What is currently happening to LG in Nigeria, can be described as “crisis of expectation” from higher authorities and general public; But this crisis is not reserved to LG alone. Nigeria is corruption-sick. Let us face it!
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