• Tuesday, July 16, 2024
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Keeping a keen eye on public finance

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Akin Ambode’s pedigree is that of a complete technocrat. He’s one of those very few technocrats who, instead of running to the rather more lucrative private sector, chose to devote a greater part of his working life, all 27 years of it, to working in the public sector. His expertise is in public finance, but you will find in Ambode more than a consummate passion and clear personal interest in the management of public finance.

“Public financial management is about ensuring that public money is well spent and it is made to stretch as far as possible.  It provides leaders and public-sector managers with information to make decisions and to know if they are using resources effectively,” Ambode explains effortlessly to underscore his well grounded understanding of the subject.

And that should come naturally for a man who spent such a long time in public service in positions that put him at the heart of managing public money.

At less than 37 years of age when Ambode was appointed acting auditor general for Local Governments in Lagos State, Nigeria’s business, commercial and financial capital, he had displayed his expertise in the management of public finance across many local governments as either an auditor or treasurer. He was an assistant treasurer, Badagry Local Government; auditor, Shomolu Local Government; council treasurer, Alimosho Local Government; council treasurer, Shomolu Local Government; council treasurer, Mushin Local Government.

In these roles, particularly working at grassroots levels of governance, he was able to get a first-hand experience of the direct impact of governance on the citizenry.

“Strong public financial management systems are essential to improved service delivery, poverty reduction and, to an extent, achievement of Millennium Development Goals. An effective public financial management system will naturally guarantee financial efficiency, improve transparency and accountability,” Ambode says.

Akin Ambode, public finance management expert and Chief Executive Officer, Brandsmiths Consulting Limited
Akin Ambode, public finance management expert and Chief Executive Officer, Brandsmiths Consulting Limited

His is a man well prepared in this specialist area of public finance. He studied accounting at the University of Lagos graduating at the age of 21.

He did his national service with the Central Bank in Sokoto, an experience that began a long journey in public service. At 24 he had become a chartered accountant and had completed a Master’s degree in Accounting specializing in financial management. In 1998 while still in public service he was awarded the US Fullbright scholarship for the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship programme in Boston University, Massachusetts.

He spent his fellowship year studying public leadership, emphasising finance and accounting. Ambode’s professional internships in the United States were spent at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, the Cabinet Office of Administration and Finance (Governor’s Office), City of Boston Treasury Office, as well as with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

He has also acquired broader management education through programmes at leading management and business schools, including the Wharton Business School, where he completed the Advanced Management Programme; he also took courses at the Cranfield School of Management, Cranfield, England; the Institute of Management Development (IMD), Lausanne, Switzerland; INSEAD, Singapore and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

Ambode is particularly grounded in the affairs of Lagos State, which he served for such a long time and continues to serve even in retirement. For instance, in January 2005, Ambode was redeployed to mainstream public service as the permanent secretary, Ministry of Finance.

By February 2006, Ambode was given the added responsibility of accountant general for Lagos State, in charge of all the financial activities of the State and directly responsible for over 1,400 accountants in the state service. Under his watch, the State Treasury Office (STO) revolutionised the way Lagos State finances were raised, budgeted, managed and planned.

In his six years as the Lagos State accountant general, the State’s financial performance improved visibly with the budget performing at a remarkable average of 85 percent annually. He was known as an achiever and a performer. In addition, he was able to motivate the civil service staff around him.

His passion for public finance and particularly his desire to see that the proper processes and practices are in place in its management that led him to set up a consultancy, Brandsmith Limited, devoted to public finance and management consultancy upon leaving public service. Since then he has been involved in working with state and federal government agencies to cut-over to the new IPSAS system of public accounting, which takes effect soon.

Ambode happily tells you that he is passionate about Lagos, his state. But he is also interested in developing young leaders and professionals and contributing to the society from which he gained so much. He is typically a Federal Government College boy having attended FGC Warri.

He lived in that city for seven years attending school for his ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels. Ambode is much socially engaged participating in community development programmes, particularly his pet initiative, “The Flags Project”, that aims to install Nigerian and Lagos State flags in all government owned schools in Lagos State.

Phillip Isakpa