The Federal Ministry of Finance, the commissioners of finance and accountants-general of the 36 states of the federation have begun moves to reduce the high cost of governance in the country following the continuous decline in crude oil prices in the international market.
The need to prune expenditure, according to the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, is necessitated by the persistent drop in oil prices, which has continued to have a negative impact on the revenue of government.
The minister in Abuja on Tuesday at the opening session of a three-day national treasury workshop, with the theme: ‘Optimum funds management in the midst of cash flow challenges’, called on states to align their spending with the austerity measures recently announced by the Federal Government.
Apart from the commissioners of finance, the workshop was attended by head of accounts of the Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the government and other relevant stakeholders in the finance and accounting subsectors of the nation’s economy.
Represented by the Minister of State for Finance, Ambassador Bashir Yuguda, Okonjo-Iweala predicted a tough fiscal year for the country but added that the Federal Government’s economic management team had the capacity to address the challenges.
She said while oil revenue accruing to the government had continued to decline, adequate measures had been put in place to shore up non-oil revenue.
For instance, she said that within the last few months, non-oil revenue receipts had increased, noting that the trend was expected to continue due to some of the reforms that had been put in place to improve tax administration.
The minister said, “The idea of the workshop is to discuss the challenges that we are having due to the fall in the revenue of the government
“How do we prioritise our products? How do we curtail unnecessary expenses? How do we reduce overheads and recurrent expenditures? How do we improve on the revenue profile in the country and diversification of the economy?
“This is the best time for us to be applying more of the knowledge that we have so that we should be able to navigate through the challenges we are having, and I believe that after this workshop, we should be able to come up with measures that align with what we have started already.
“We also called on the sub-national level of government to try to key into what we have been talking about. For us at the Federal Ministry of Finance, we are here to guide them and to share our own experiences and we are here to streamline strategy because what affects anyone of us as a nation, affects all.”
The Accountant-General of the Federation, Mr. Jonah Otunla, said the workshop would not only add value to the government’s effort in keeping the treasury functional at all times, but would also assist in addressing the challenges of resource management.
He said, “The effect of dwindling oil price is not only peculiar to the country but to the entire world. This workshop is therefore coming at a very appropriate time, especially as the national budget is being processed by the National Assembly.
“It thus gives us a better opportunity to look at several other ways that will enable successful implementation of the budget and guarantee effective and efficient governance.”
Earlier, the Director, Funds, Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation, Mr. Mohammed Dikwa, said since government resources would not be able to cater for the needs of the people owing to revenue shortfall, the effects might be felt in the area of job losses, rising poverty, financial crisis and insecurity.