Recently Abdulsamad Dasuki, the former Commissioner of Finance, Sokoto state, handed over to Dahiru Abbas, the Permanent Secretary in the ministry. At the ceremony Dasuki drew attention to the reforms which the Tambuwal administration had carried out in the finance ministry. He went down memory lane and recalled that when the administration came on board, government finances were at “low ebb owing to poor FAAC inflows, in addition to weak internally generated revenue.”
He said that the administration “developed strategies to reform public finance to ensure prudent management of resources, blocked loopholes in the state payroll, and instituted a regime of transparency and accountability in public finance.”
At the heart of this reform is the Cash Management Strategy which Governor Aminu Tambuwal approved in the year 2019, which has since helped the state to realise its ‘development agenda.’ An example of these are the recently commissioned Sokoto diagnostic centre, the livestock transformation programme, as well as numerous ongoing people oriented projects across the state.
Dasuki, who is Santurakin Sokoto, added that today on account of these reforms, Sokoto state is better positioned to ‘compete favourably for investments, and to meet the aspirations of its people.’
So far reforms of the state’s finances have received recognition from major institutions, including a grant of $33 million in three years, and it is expecting another $22 million before the end of 2022 from the World Bank, for commitment to implementing the States Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Transparency (SFTAS) programme.
Aminu Zurmi, Executive Chairman of the Sokoto Internal Revenue Service, explains “The reforms began in 2017 by Governor Tambuwal. Our office used to be known as the Board of Internal Revenue. The Governor is proactive and wanted to key into the internally generated revenue with a view to improving on the collection of internally generated revenue, as well as block leakages. There were a lot of reforms in our office beginning with the change of management.”
In the foreword to a work titled Cash Management Strategy, published by the Sokoto state government, which provides a comprehensive background to financial reforms in the state, Dasuki explains “Due to limited resources available, government at all levels is confronted with the need to develop an appropriate strategy for deploying the resources in a manner that will make maximum impact and lead to the promotion of the welfare of her citizens, while also ensuring the security of lives and properties. It is in this light that we consider the development of a Cash Management Strategy as a necessity in our overall agenda towards the growth and development of Sokoto state.”
Umar Ahmed, Accountant General, Sokoto in his preface to the same document, adds “Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) adhere to strict cash management controls for monitoring cash inflows and outflows and ensuring a sufficient amount for meeting urgent and day-to-day public service delivery. This ensures that cash is efficiently managed and money is not lost through theft or error in the processing of the transaction.”
“Overall, the goal for governments is to advance local and global progress by ending poverty, protecting the planet, and ensuring that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. With many governments faced with severe and looming fiscal crises-huge mismatch between rising expenditure and declining revenue, a scenario that has continued to threaten public service delivery-governments in recent times are being encouraged to deploy effective strategies for the efficient utilisation of public resources-cash and non-cash,” states the introduction to the work.
As outlined in the document, some of the key elements of the reforms in the ministry carried out across the last three years, include: All government banking arrangements shall be unified with the ministry of Finance having full oversight of all government cash flows across bank accounts using the Treasury Single Account Model, central disbursements of all personnel costs such as salaries, allowances, pensions, gratuities through an end to end electronic payment system, all cash balances in revenue collection accounts or TSA sub accounts in all commercial banks shall be swept to the Treasury Single Account not later than 2pm every Friday, no cash collection is allowed under any guise, use of cash is discouraged, and MDAs shall not keep cash above threshold as will be communicated through circulars from the office of the Accountant General of the state from time to time.In addition to this Cash Management risks shall be mitigated through continuous staff training.
It was gathered that some of the major reforms in the ministry of finance, include the passage of the new Sokoto sate Revenue Consolidation and Integration law, which harmonises revenue for both state and local governments. Provision of befitting office accommodation at investment house. Recruitment of new staff, deployment of e tax portal for easy administration of taxes and collections, and the provision of a single payment gateway for accountability and transparency.
In respect of salaries, there was the acquisition of a new software for processing of salaries, training of staff on use of the software, Biometrics and BVN data capture, leading to the discovery and elimination of additional staff receiving more than one salary. There was identification and removal of more than 1371 staff from the payroll, as well as adjusting of the salaries of a huge number of staff who were collecting salaries above the entitlement of their grade levels.
There was enhanced efficiency of the salaries department in the area of payment of salaries, most times occuring on the 23rd of each month. In addition to this there was proper control and timely removal of retired/dead staff from the payroll. This allows government to continue recruiting new staff in areas of needed critical services, thereby providing additional employment to the teeming youth, while providing essential services to the people of the state.
Zurmi opens up on the ‘astronomical’ changes that have occurred in the states internally generated revenue, since the commencement of the reforms.
His words “In the year 2016 the sum of 4.56 billion was realised as internally generated revenue. In 2017 the figure rose to 9 billion within eleven months. In 2018 it rose from 9 billion to 13 billion. In 2019 it rose to 18 billion. You can see the astronomical rise. In 2017 Sokoto state came second after Ebonyi in terms of percentage collection as rated by the National Bureau of Statistics.” 80% of the population of Sokoto state practice one form of agriculture or the other. Local crafts such as blacksmithing, dyeing and weaving play an important role in the economic life of the people of the state.
Zurmi speaks on the e-portal and the mobile app. Hear him: The Sokoto e portal is a portal where all payments of revenues can take place. You can pay your taxes on the platform. Wherever you are you can make your payment. Another avenue that was provided is the mobile app. You can also use the mobile app to make payments. We have come up with so many avenues for the collection and payment of taxes. It is a completely cashless system we run here.”
He comments on the approval given for 49 fresh graduates of Sokoto state extraction, to be recruited to work in his office, which is key to the collection of internally generated revenue in Sokoto state. The office is a new fully air conditioned modern edifice with computers, modern electronic devices, and hardworking staff.
“This is the kind of environment you find in Abuja, not in a place outside Abuja. This is a temporary setting. Our headquarters is under construction right now,” says Zurmi.