•Olowo, new executive secretary, unfolds transformation agenda
•Says companies, govt institutions falling short of standards expected under the FRC Act
Executive Secretary/Chief Executive Officer of the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria (FRC), Dr. Rabiu Olowo, yesterday, unveiled his agenda for the council, including a plan to re-introduce a corporate governance code for not-for-profit organisations and the public sector.
In an address he presented during a stakeholders’ and media roundtable in Lagos, Olowo stressed that the codes for both the public and not-for-profit sectors were at an advanced stage, with the target to unveil them within the first quarter of 2024.
Not-for-profit organisations include churches, mosques and other non-governmental organisations (NGOs). In 2016, the FRC led by Jim Obazee, who was recently appointed by President Bola Tinubu to investigate the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), had ordered not-for-profit organisations, including churches and mosques, to comply with the corporate governance code, which, among others, had stipulated term limits for heads of the organisations. The development, which became controversial, as it was challenged by some of the prominent church leaders in the country, had led to the removal of Obazee.
But speaking during the media roundtable, Olowo explained, “As controversial as it is, it is something that must be done. If you do a risk analysis of entities in any country, the not-for-profit sector is as risky as the profit entities. So, it is very important that we issue codes on how these institutions are covered. It is our responsibility to do that and we will not shy away from that.”
Olowo, who was appointed the FRC boss last month, said the transformation agenda of the council would be hinged on four broad areas tagged, “DOSE, which means Digitisation, Operational Excellence, Stakeholder Engagement and Enforcement.” He said this was in line with Tinubu’s “Renewed Hope Agenda”.
Olowo pointed out that the “21st Century has seen a massive shift from manual processes into a digital operationalisation of activities. Our transformation agenda is hinged upon the use of technological tool to enhance our activities.
“FRC will leverage on technology to streamline its operations and improve efficiency. This includes the use of technology in the filing and analysis of financial statements, corporate governance reports and other corporate filings, as well as the implementation of online reporting systems to facilitate timely and accurate submission of financial statements.
“Our focus will be to ensure efficient and effective delivery of flawless service to the stakeholders through digitalisation, capacity building, advocacy and thought leadership. Our processes will be automated to ensure quick and timely responses”.
Olowo also stated that financial statements, corporate governance reports and all other corporate reporting requirements expected from relevant stakeholders would be done through the council’s planned Digital Repository Platform as mandated by FRC Act 2011 (as amended).
According to him, “The council commenced the development of the Public Sector Governance Code, which is very close to completion and forms a key part of my agenda. The public sector remains the catalyst of economic growth in not only Nigeria but emerging markets. Institutionalisation of corporate governance in the public sector of Nigerian economy is fundamental towards sound policies and economic growth. This we plan to unveil in the first quarter of year 2024.
“Similarly, the council, seeing the need for proper guidance to Not-For-Profit Organisations, embarked on developing a Governance Code for Not-For-Profit 10 Organisations. The code is at an advanced stage with the target to unveil same within the first quarter of 2024.”
He also said FRC would introduce the Inspection Specialist Programme, which would complement and strengthen its monitoring efforts focusing on a sectorial leadership approach to review of corporate reports.
Olowo stated, “There is need to scale up staff capacity in terms of number of professional staff and skills. As an umbrella regulator in financial reporting and related matters, the current number of professional staff in the Council is grossly inadequate. Their skills are expected to be top-notch and comparable with similar organisations globally.
“Our aim is to raise capacity of staff both in number and skills to the highest desirable level. A gradual increase in the number of staff will be undertaken to progressively raise the number to about 450 staff with appropriate number of professionals included in the next few years.
“Another initiative of capacity building is to undertake twinning arrangements with sister regulators globally. This will help to benchmark and fine tune the Council’s professional resources to international levels. Talents will be sourced both internally and externally to meet the demands of corporate reporting which includes IFRS, IPSAS, Corporate Governance, Auditing Standards and Sustainability Reporting. iv. Establishment of all the Statutory Directorates Section 23 of the FRC Act 2011 (As amended) stipulated 7 directorates for the Council. Unfortunately, after 12 years of the establishment of the Council, only five out of the seven directorates are functional as earlier mentioned.
“However, and in line with our transformation agenda, Council has taken it as a priority to have the full complements of the Directorates in 2024 as stipulated in the Act. The Council is engaging the relevant stakeholders for the establishment of the Directorate of Valuation Standards and Directorate of Actuarial Standards.”
He said the issuance of roadmap report for sustainability reporting in Nigeria would be done before the end of the first quarter of 2024.
While calling for the support and cooperation of all stakeholders, Olowo said, “We have witnessed concerning evidence that numerous entities and government institutions are falling short of the high standards expected under the FRC Act 2011. Our task therefore is to transform the FRC into a new, robust, independent, and high-performing regulator comparable globally.
“The bedrock of the transformation agenda of the council going forward is to ensure maximum compliance with the FRC Act 2011 (as amended), and other statutory instruments released by the Council. FRC intends to give full credibility to any financial statements coming out of Nigeria in a way that investors can rely on the information in the statements.
“A new FRC that will be firm and fair in carrying out her mandate; that will hold corporates and individuals accountable; and that will restore confidence in corporate reports and governance in the Nigerian economy thereby enhance the renewed hope of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.” (THISDAY)