The Joint House Committee on Finance and Public Accounts has promised to champion new reforms that will inject accountability into the management of funds in the state.
They made public their plans, yesterday, during a public hearing on two executive bills: Rivers State Audit Reform bill and Rivers State Finance Control and Management bill 2019.
While the Audit bill seeks to repeal and re-enact an existing bill of 1999, the Finance and Control bill is a new bill set to streamline public finance and enforce transparency.
Chairman House Committee on Finance and Deputy Speaker, Hon. Ehie Ogerenye Edison said the public hearing is to get input from stakeholders and ensure that all forms of misappropriation are eliminated.
In his words, “if the bill is finally approved and passed into law the state would be one of the first to legally fight corruption.
Hon. Edison affirmed that the Chief Wike-led administration is against all forms of misappropriation hence it has sponsored the bill to streamline adequate appropriation of government funds.
Earlier, Chairman House Committee on Public Accounts, Hon. Major Jack submitted that the public hearing will streamline the bill and give it a modern look.
In his view it was high time the state reformed its audit system to give room for efficiency.
In the future, he said, accounting officers will be responsible as they are expected to be more prudent in their duties.
In a related development, the call for the establishment of the Rivers State Audit Service Commission has divided stakeholders in the public finance and accounts sector in the state.
Their views were made public during the public hearing on “The Rivers State Finance Control and Management bill 2019”, and “The Rivers State Audit Reform bill of 2019” held at the Assembly Complex yesterday.
While the Auditor- General of the State, Eliaz Akazu, advocated for an independent body to oversee audit processes in the state, Chairman of the State Civil Service Commission, Chief Oris Onyiri said it will conflict with service rules and duplicate functions.
Speaking through one Emmanuel Dappa, the Chairman of the State Civil Service said if the Commission is established, it will conflict with the mandate of the commission to oversee all public service matters, and therefore urged the Assembly to ensure that such provisions are duly addressed.
“When it comes to the discipline and promotion of auditors, it will relegate the duties of the Civil Service Commission, “ Onyiri declared.
Except in the appointment of Auditor General, which is exclusive of the Governor, Onyiri stated that other aspects of employment, promotion and discipline are under the Commission, stressing that auditors are civil servants.
Akazu had earlier posited that the Commission was necessary to inject efficiency and transparency in audit system.
He reasoned that, “auditing is moving away from the traditional system… The office should be funded through direct charge on government account or through budgeting”.
The State Auditor -General also sued for the establishment of a legal department to oversee grey legal areas instead of resorting to staffs loaned from sister agencies.
Meanwhile, a representative of the Rivers State University and Professor of Accountancy, Loveday Nwayanwu, has called for the inclusion of members of various high institutions in the proposed board of state audit.
Besides, Prof Nwayanwu argued that it will not be transparent if the auditors generally appoint somebody to audit his office.
Such duty, according to Nwayanwu, should be done by an independent body to create transparency.
Shell’s Ultra-Modern Medical Centre Donation Excites Ogun Community
The government of Ogun State and leaders of Ogijo Community in Sagamu Local Government Area of the state have described the 20-bed ultra-modern medical centre donated to the community as a model of primary health care facility worthy of replication across the state.
The Ogun State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Tomi Coker, who took delivery of the facility in a virtual ceremony last Wednesday said the donation was timely, coming at a time that the state was struggling with the dearth of facilities to manage the increasing cases infection of the novel coronavirus in the state, adding that the state government alone could not bear the burden of public healthcare delivery.
The medical centre, with doctors’ quarters, alternative power system, water treatment plant and a medical ambulance was built, equipped and furnished by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Limited (SNEPCo) in partnership with SNEPCo’s co-venture partners.
“We’re very appreciative to NNPC and SNEPCo. This medical centre could not have come at a better time as it will go a long way in strengthening the state’s primary healthcare delivery system,” said Coker.
According to Coker, NNPC and SNEPCo had supported Ogun State for more than eight years during which the companies had trained over 200 state health workers.
“With this state-of-the-art medical centre, I am sure that the people of Ogijo would have the qualitative, affordable and accessible healthcare that the governor promised all the citizens of Ogun State.”
The traditional head of Ogijo, Oba Kazeem Gbadamosi, noted that the facility was not just a pride for Ogijo but for Ogun State.
“This is the best of its kind in Ogun State and we’re so excited to have this delivered to our community by NNPC and SNEPCo.”
Managing Director of SNEPCo, Bayo Ojulari, who handed over the facility to the state government noted that the focus of the social investment policy of the company was on health and education, and that SNEPCo would continue to strengthen its relationship with governments across Nigeria for better healthcare and education systems.
“Our health intervention programmes have been delivered in many states and our secondary school and university scholarships are continuing to grow. With the support of NNPC and our co-venture partners, we will not relent.”
General Manager of the National Petroleum Investment Management Services, an NNPC subsidiary, Bala Wunti, who was represented by NNPC’s General Manager, Services, Yahaya Yunusa, charged the state and Ogijo Community to provide effective management of the facility in a manner that will provide the required healthcare services to the people.
“Sustainability should be paramount in the management system to ensure that the facility serves the purpose for which it is meant.”
The facility was the second of its type donated by SNEPCo in recent times.
The company had recently rehabilitated and equipped the Casualty and Trauma sections of the General Hospital Odan, Marina in Lagos State with state-of-the-art medical emergency equipment, and also donated fully equipped custom-made ambulances for easy access different parts of the state.
Shell Employees Launch N82m Free Feeding Programme
Employees of Shell companies in Nigeria have launched free feeding programme in COVID-19 isolation centres in seven states under the Shell Employee Care Programme, the General Manager External Relations of Shell Nigeria, IgoWeli, said in a statement issued on Sunday.
“The programme has kicked off in Abia, Bayelsa, Delta, Imo, Lagos, Ogun and Rivers States and it is a further demonstration of care to the people following the numerous intervention programmes by Shell companies in Nigeria particularly in support of government at all levels in the fight against the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic,” Weli said.
The feeding programme, according to Weli, was being funded from personal donations by staff and contractors of the Anglo-Dutch integrated energy giant, the total amount of which was matched by the companies to make up the N82.6million for the programme.
The programme delivery strategy involves a collaboration with the state governments, non-government organisations and certified caterers to provide freshly cooked meals daily to patients and healthcare workers at the isolation centres.
Head of Clinical Services at the Bayelsa State Isolation Centre in Yenagoa, Dr James Omietimi, who oversees the distribution of the meals said, “I eat the lunch provided and the nutritional value is good because of the variety. I can tell you it’s tasty and meals have been coming in daily.”
So far, this intervention has provided over 31,000 meals to the isolation centres with plans to scale up to 54,000.
Shell companies in Nigeria had earlier donated ambulances, testing machines and kits, medical consumables and personal protection equipment to Abia, Bayelsa, Delta, Imo, Lagos, Ogun, Oyo and Rivers states to help in the fight against the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2012 and 2018, staff and contractors of Shell companies in Nigeria had also made personal cash donation to provide succor to victims impacted by the unprecedented flood and Internally Displaced Persons humanitarian crises in the Niger Delta, Kogi and Anambra States, and North East of Nigeria, as part of the Shell Employees Care scheme.
Shell companies in Nigeria comprise The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC); Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Limited (SNEPCo); and Shell Nigeria Gas.
Social Action Condemns Police Arrest Of Fuel Hike Protesters
Social Action comprising of various non-governmental organisations has called for urgent reversal of hike in fuel price, as it condemned police arrest of fuel price hike protesters.
In a statement signed by the Communications and Advocacy Manager of Social Action, Lilian Aikhigbe, and made available to The Tide, in Port Harcourt, the body averred that the fuel price hike was ill-timed and unwarranted.
It further said, “the organization, therefore, condemns the harassment and brutalisation of several civil society actors, students and journalists who were arrested by the Nigeria Police following a series of demonstrations across the country, against the petrol price and electricity tariff increment.”
The organisation maintained that it was within the rights of Nigerian citizens to publicly express displeasure with the insensitive policies of the government which were glaringly inimical to the wellbeing of the Nigerian masses.
“Most Nigerians are yet to recover from the economic downturn occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic. Many lost their jobs or experienced a drastic drop in personal income, owing to the pandemic”, it said.
The body insisted that the price increment was, therefore, ill-timed and highly insensitive for the government to initiate policies that could bring more suffering upon the people, no matter the reasons proffered by the government as justification for the increment.
“We, therefore, strongly demand for a reversal of this anti-people policy which has already brought untold hardship to many Nigerians. We stand in solidarity with the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), students’ union bodies, Civil Society Organisations and the Nigerian masses to call for the immediate reversal of the fuel price increment and electricity tariff hike.
“We also call for an immediate end to the needless harassment of patriotic citizens protesting the hike in fuel and electricity costs, as it is undemocratic for such well-meaning citizens to be arrested on account of their legitimate stance against the suppressive and draconian policies of the government. Such arrests portray the Muhammadu Buhari-led government in bad light and the Nigerian Police ought to know that the people have the right to hold the government accountable by demanding for good governance and better standards of living,” it insisted.
The body urged the Federal Government to expedite action in revamping the moribund oil refineries in the country, and establish modular refineries as well.
“After several decades of importing refined petroleum products, it is high time the oil-rich nation, popularly referred to as the ‘giant’ of Africa, began to refine as much of its crude oil as is needed to meet local demand, rather than exporting it and placing the burden of these exports on the masses who are made to pay exorbitant prices to purchase the imported, refined products”, it added.
By: Kevin Nengia
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