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FCT Minister, man of accountability, transparency, we follow him - Sabo, UBEB Director, Finance & Account
16th Mar, 2020

One wouldn't be wrong to call him Mr. Information Technology (IT). The Director, Finance and Account (DFA), Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA)'s Universal Basic Education Board (UBEB), Alhaji Ibrahim Sabo, is a famous, IT-savvy accountant. Literally, the man lives IT, breathes IT, sleeps IT.

Rightly, of course, Sabo believes IT drives modern processes all over the world and FCT cannot be left behind. No wonder the cerebral professional is member of several leading international and national accounting bodies such as Fellow, Association of Chartered System Accountants (USA); Fellow, Association of National Accountants of Nigeria (ANAN); Member, Certified Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (CITN); Member, Institute of Treasury Management and Financial Accountants; Member, Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Nigeria (ICPA) and a wealth of others, crowning these with an enviable track record of public service experience. He spoke to Felix Durumbah last week and dwelt on a couple of trending issues in the sector.

Abuja Digest Weekly: You are a multi-award-winning top accountant in the country. How have all these awards, including the recent one from Association of National Accountants of Nigeria (ANAN), impacted your work?
Sabo: :Thank you very much. Actually, as a professional accountant, our work is mostly based on our professional ethics. In accounting, most especially in ANAN, you cannot be a member of ANAN without undergoing some form of professional training. And in the course of that training, you'll be groomed on how to ensure that you abide by the professional ethics required of an accountant. And those professional ethics are what I've taken as my guiding principles in the discharge of my responsibility as Director of Finance and Account in FCTA UBEB.

As you're aware, one, Mr. President is a person of integrity and so is the FCT Minister. So, definitely, we cannot afford to fail these two people, most especially the FCT Minister. We ensure that whatever we're doing, we give prominence to issues of accountability and transparency in the financial activities of FCTA UBEB.

So, basically, what I'll say is that the trainings I've received through ANAN have been my guiding principles and, secondly, you're aware that as a professional accountant, we normally undergo yearly mandatory training which ensures that we're up to date regarding trends in the profession.

One thing I want you to be aware of is that, generally, one thing you have to give consideration to in virtually any profession one is in, is the Information Technology (IT) component. We've now moved from the analogue system; everything now is moving towards IT. And, fortunately for me, I'm a member of the systems accounting body; I'm a fellow of systems accountants' body of Nigeria presently. So, I ensure that, to a large extent, we deploy IT in the discharge of our responsibilities here at FCTA UBEB.

Abuja Digest Weekly: Since you came to UBEB as Director, Finance and Account, people say there has been no report of funds misappropriation or corruption, despite the billions of naira reportedly made available to UBEB. Would you attribute this to close monitoring by the FCT Minister, and/or any other reasons?
Sabo: I told you that the leadership drives the followership. We've a person of integrity as FCT Minister. And to be quite frank with you, he has given the board all the necessary support required for us to be able to discharge our primary responsibility of ensuring deliverance of basic education to all residents of FCT. At all times, anytime we apply for UBE counterpart fund, the Minister does not waste time in approving release of funds. In short, FCT is in the forefront of implementation of Federal Government (FG)'s UBE programme in the country. So, because of that, we cannot afford to fail the Minister. And, as I told you earlier, I'm guided by my professional

ethics. Also, one thing I'll like to let you know is that here in FCTA UBEB, and the Finance department in particular, you'll never see any contractor following his file in our department. When your file gets to this department, just go home and wait. We'll process the file, you'll just see your alert---and that's all. You can stay here up till 5.00pm; you'll never see a contractor entering this office.

Recently, I'd say, the Chairman of the board constituted a mini committee to ensure that we fast-track payments to contractors while in the process ensure also that we do not compromise laid- down regulations. So, all these ensure that there is prudence and compliance to due process and are key to accountability and transparency. These are maintained. The key words here are accountability and transparency. If you're able to maintain these, definitely I'd say you're monitoring what's happening---we're doing the monitoring very well.

Abuja Digest Weekly: In managing the funds of a big organization as FCTA, as a leading accountant, what sort of personality or professional tools should the holder of the position possess?
Sabo: First and foremost, you need to be a good leader; a good leader in the sense that you have to carry your subordinates along. You have to be a team player. That's key. You've to be professional in your approach, in the discharge of your responsibilities. That's number two. And as I said earlier, definitely, you've to deploy IT in processing government funds. That's in accounting generally, as I said. You're aware that FG is using a budget management platform and expenditure processing platform. That's the Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS) platform. We need to have something similar to that in FCT. It's not possible for now to completely eliminate what's in use presently, but it would make things easier. In short, it eliminates fraud within the system; it's easy to control processes and procedures. You can manage the budget system easily and it makes it faster and easier to generate reports, which is very important because in accounting what you do basically is the measurement, processing of financial and non-financial activities of an organization. And the thing now in accounting is mainly on statements,

reporting, to non-accounting superiors or organizations, as the case may be. So, it makes it easier to be able to generate reports to stakeholders.

Abuja Digest Weekly: Experts say that to ensure a system runs seamlessly, mentoring is very important. To what extent have you executed this in your department?
Sabo: If there's one thing I've been proud of, that is part of the legacy one would leave someday here, is that of mentoring. I'm always happy when I see these our young graduates who are coming up, especially the dedicated ones, learning the job professionally and they're able to perform as expected.

One thing I want to inform you about is that if not for the recent transfers conducted sometime ago where most of the finance staff of UBEB were transferred out, virtually all the accounting staff in UBEB are professional accountants. And I ensured that I encouraged all my staff to go and register, undergo training, sit for exams and become registered accountants. And as I sit here, I'm proud to say that virtually all the staff that have been transferred out of the board, who were here before, have been performing greatly. I'm very proud of them—from the reports I've been receiving. Secondly, I try as much as possible to, from time to time--- monthly or bi-monthly---as the case may be, assemble all my staff; we sit down together, brainstorm on our work, the various jobs one by one. We go through different units, brainstorm on what they're doing and what we can do to improve the way they're working within any particular unit.

At the end of the day, through the interaction you get to know what other units are doing and that will broaden your knowledge about the entire accounting department. That's basically what I do to ensure that I try in my own little way to mentor these up and coming ones who, I believe, will take over from us by the time we exit the service.

Abuja Digest Weekly: What else on IT literacy?
Sabo: There's nothing that's perfect in the real sense of it. But, my wish is to see us in a situation that the system is, to a large extent, perfect.

We're able to deploy IT in government business and there's need for everybody to ensure that you get yourself acquainted with or you acquire knowledge on IT because, to be frank, even presently it's not even easy to move forward if one is not equipped in IT.

With the trend now in accounting, which is the IPSAS introduced, most of it is driven via software. And at the rate with which the world is changing, the management expect you to be able to render reports on the spot in soft copy and you can only do that if you're IT-literate. And it's only through IT that I would say we would be able to attain that level of perfection.

One other thing I want to emphasize is to try as much as I can to see the best towards the success of whatever I'm given and because of that, to be frank, lazy people are never my friends. All my staff members know that. It's not a joke anyway; I always tell my staff members who complain that so-so person is close to me, 'do you also want to be close to me? Do you know the secret? Just become a hardworking staff. If you're hardworking, you'll be close to me; you won't even know when you'll be close to me'. So, that's it.

Abuja Digest Weekly: Thanks for talking to the newspaper.
Sabo: Thank you very much.

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