Corruption: I saved billions of dollars as finance minister, says Okonjo-Iweala

Nigeria’s former Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has advised governments across the world to be more transparent and accountable amid the coronavirus pandemic.

She observed that many countries are battling corruption in the procurement of medical supplies including personal protective equipment, stressing that governments should “publish all tenders and all contracts” and “companies receiving funds should not be anonymous”.

The ex-World Bank director stated this in a piece titled, ‘To Beat Covid-19, Governments Need to Open Up’ published on Bloomberg.

Okonjo-Iweala, who presently serves on the board of Bloomberg Task Force on Fiscal Policy for Health, recalled her two tenures as Nigeria’s finance minister from 2003 to 2006 as well as between 2011 and 2015.

She said while serving with the President Olusegun Obasanjo and President Goodluck Jonathan’s administrations, she worked hard to open up information and tackle corruption, saving billions of dollars that were channeled to other priorities.

The Nigerian candidate for the position of director-general at the World Trade Organisation, wrote, “Getting medical equipment, and eventually vaccines, to those that need them most poses a major governance challenge. Already, many countries are battling price gouging, collapsing supply chains and even corruption in the procurement of supplies, including personal protective equipment. Out of desperation, governments have contracted with suppliers who have no track record of delivering the equipment they need. Too often those suppliers have failed.

“The only way to make emergency procurement fast and efficient is to do it in the open by publishing all tenders and all contracts.

“This openness should extend to the emergency budgets that have been established to fund healthcare systems and economic stimulus packages. Even in normal times, finance ministries need to publish their budgets in a way that encourages accountability and citizen engagement. Right now, it is even more important to reassure taxpayers that funds are being spent on the right priorities.

“During my tenure as Nigerian finance minister, we worked hard in a difficult governance environment to open up information and tackle corruption. Though it was not easy, we saved billions of dollars that were channeled to other priorities.

“At a time when many governments are rapidly mobilizing financial resources from their own budgets, international markets and donors, it is vital that funds are not wasted. Working in an open way will build trust with citizens and lenders, and it will ensure money reaches the neediest.

“When this pandemic is brought to an end, one legacy should be an expectation for more open government that makes better decisions, uses resources more wisely and puts citizens first.”


Tottenham player Serge Aurier’s brother killed in France

The younger brother of Tottenham defender Serge Aurier was killed in a shooting in Toulouse on Monday, according to a police source.

When emergency services arrived on the scene at 5:00 am local time (0300 GMT), the 26-year-old was injured in the abdomen and he later died in hospital, the fire service said.

A source close to the investigation said the gunman fled.

According to local radio, the victim was Christopher Aurier, who plays for French fifth-division team Toulouse Rodeo.

He came through the youth academy at Lens like his older brother, an Ivorian international and former Paris Saint-Germain full-back, but failed to breakthrough at the highest level.


Court lifts Man City’s ban

Manchester City will be free to play Champions League football next season after the Court of Arbitration for Sport lifted a two-season ban from European competitions imposed by UEFA on Monday.

An initial fine of 30 million euros ($34 million, £27 million) was also reduced to 10 million euros on appeal.

City were accused of deliberately inflating the value of income from sponsors with links to the Abu Dhabi United Group, also owned by City owner Sheikh Mansour, to avoid falling foul of financial fair play regulations between 2012 and 2016.

The case against City was reopened when German magazine Der Spiegel published a series of leaked emails in 2018.

However, CAS found that “most of the alleged breaches reported by the Adjudicatory Chamber of the CFCB (UEFA Club Financial Control Body) were either not established or time-barred”.

City welcomed the decision that will have huge ramifications on the club’s finances and potentially the future of manager Pep Guardiola and star players such as Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling.

“Whilst Manchester City and its legal advisors are yet to review the full ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the club welcomes the implications of today’s ruling as a validation of the club’s position and the body of evidence that it was able to present,” City said in a statement.

“The club wishes to thank the panel members for their diligence and the due process that they administered.”


No growth in generator-driven economy – MAN

The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria has said the Nigerian economy cannot grow if industries continue to rely on electricity generators for power supply.

The Chairman, Rivers/Bayelsa States Branch of MAN, Senator Adawari Pepple, explained that an economy that had been generator-driven for a long time would not be able to compete with other economies with regular power supply.

Pepple, who spoke in a telephone chat with our correspondent on Saturday, explained that members of the association were always facing the challenge of irregular power supply and had always relied on generators.

He pointed out that the situation had always affected the cost of production, adding that the power distribution and generation companies must raise their game and help to improve the economy.

Pepple noted that for the Nigerian economy to compete with developed economies, the government must begin to address the issue of irregular power supply.

He expressed surprise that Discos were seeking tariff increase without providing regular power supply to Nigerians.

“There should be regular power before you talk about tariff increase. It has always been the position of MAN that our sector and, in fact, the Nigerian economy cannot be generator-driven; it has to be power distribution-driven to develop.

“The cost of diesel is so astronomically high, though this is not only in Nigeria. But if you want to hinge your development on diesel and petrol, you are definitely not going to be competitive with other nations or other economies.

“So, it is a wake-up call for our government to hold on to the Discos and other relevant power generation firms to render their services if the industrial sector has to grow,” Pepple said.

On the recent increase in petrol pump price, the MAN chairman said it would have an adverse effect on the Nigerian market, adding that there would be increases in the prices of goods.

He said, “So, the recent increase in the price of petrol will definitely affect the Nigerian market. For the manufacturing sector, most of us are running our businesses on power generators with diesel and petrol.

“This will increase the cost of production and ultimately increase the prices of goods; it will affect the market generally.


FG hands over National Theatre to banks for renovation

The Federal Government has handed over the National Theatre at Iganmu, Lagos State to the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Bankers’ Committee for rehabilitation.

During the handover ceremony on Sunday, the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, said the bankers were aiming to create one million jobs from the project in the next five years.

The event was attended by dignitaries, including the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, and the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu.

Emefiele said after the completion of the renovation works at the National Theatre, along with the supporting facilities that would be built around it, the banking sector intended to set up similar creative industries centres in Kano, Port Harcourt or Enugu.

According to him, the supporting facilities include a hotel and an expansive conference centre.

While thanking the Federal Government for its support, he said, “Our goal for the National Theatre is to create an environment where startups and existing businesses are rewarded for their creativity.

“The National Theatre, when fully renovated, will be able to support skills acquisition and job creation for over one million Nigerians over the next five years.

“These Nigerians will be empowered with funds at single-digit interest rate, high-level training, using state-of-the-art tools and networks that will enable them to turn their ideas into reality.

“When they are able to achieve their objective of creating a new music product, a high-quality movie, an IT software application, or a fashionable outfit, the Bankers’ Committee will work to ensure that they are able to distribute their work on a larger scale.”

Towards the realisation of this objective, he said the Bankers’ Committee intended to support the creative venture with about N25bn of initial funding.