Technology and the NBA
The KPMG Report made the following findings in regard to the NBA’s Accounting System: (a) “The Association adopts manual processes for its financial reporting activities. A significant number of processes are executed manually, including but not limited to, invoice processing, budgeting, fixed asset management, bank reconciliations and journal postings”; (b) “Currently, financial transactions are captured on manual ledgers maintained on MS Excel spreadsheets. At the month-end, a trial balance is manually prepared to show the summary of transactions for each class of account”.
On the risk and impact of the NBA’s antediluvian accounting system, the Report states as follows: (a) “Use of a manual accounting system leaves room for fraud or significant accounting errors”; (b) “Financial information may not be available timely, which could hinder sound or prompt decision making”. In concluding, the Report recommends that “the Association should perform a technology needs assessment for the financial reporting activities and select a suitable accounting software with the required reporting capabilities and functions”.
In point of fact, it is not only our accounting system that is antediluvian and technology non-compliant; the Association itself and its various processes, operations and activities are technologically backward and non-compliant. At the last NEC meeting in Kano, for example, there was disputation amongst NEC members on the recording of the previous meeting’s proceedings and specifically as to whether a certain motion was moved or not moved. The mover and seconder of the motion insisted, during the review of the previous meeting’s Minutes, that the motion was moved and that it was not captured in the reviewed Minutes; the Secretariat advanced reasons why this could not have been the correct position of the proceedings.
Such disputation could have been avoided if the NBA had introduced electronic recording for its NEC meetings and other proceedings and had also evolved and perfected a system of ensuring, protecting and preserving the integrity of such electronic recordings. One could ask, how can a Bar Association that still depends primarily if not solely on manual recording of its proceedings ever rise up to the challenge of championing the cause of and prodding the judiciary towards electronic recording of court proceedings in all the hierarchies of courts, notably, at the trial courts where the primary work of recording and processing evidence is still handwritten by Our Lordships?
If we had put our house in order, the NBA ought to be in the forefront of championing ubiquitous use of electronic recordings in all our Courts given the obvious advantages and benefits that would accrue therefrom not only to the litigants but also to justice administration generally and indeed the Courts and our Lordships. To the naysayers who scoff at the prospects and practice of such electronic recordings in the courts, NBA should be able to give assurances based on its own practice of recording the Association’s meetings and other proceedings; we should in the process also be able to provide tips to the sceptics as well as those who are genuinely well-intentioned and need assurances on how best to ensure the integrity and preservation of such recordings.
Sadly, the NBA robs itself of that prime advocacy role by remaining technologically backward in its own operations and activities. It definitely would smack of hypocrisy if the Association were to champion a cause it appears not to believe in and does not practice. And yet, the NBA is structured to be the voice, not only of the Bar, but of the society and the Nigerian citizenry who ultimately would benefit from the elevation of our courtroom recordings to electronic standards. From a different perspective, how can a Bar Association that is technologically challenged and backward be in a position to encourage its members to embrace modern technologies that would give them competitive and competitive edge and advantage in the international legal marketplace?
The truth is that, a technology-driven NBA will greatly propel the Association towards achieving the primary aims of my reform agenda for the Association, to wit, (a) enhance efficiency in the operations and running of the Association; (b) engender confidence and trust amongst its members (or, as some would say, win back the confidence and trust of its members); (c) transform the NBA into a sustainable institution; and (d) increase the moral equity of the NBA to enable it effectively influence required reforms in the justice subsector and remain a respected watchdog of the society.