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ACCOUNTABILITY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE HON.COMMISSIONER, MINISTRY OF FINANCE AND ECONOMIC PLANNING, DAVID OLOFU, ON THE ACHIEVEMENTS OF HIS EXCELLENCY, THE EXECUTIVE GOVERNOR OF BENUE STATE, SAMUEL ORTOM FROM MAY 2015 TO FEBRUARY 2016. PROTOCOL It is with pleasure that I welcome you all to this press briefing by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, to intimate you on the activities and performances of the Ministry in ensuring prudent financial management of the State Government financial resources in line with His Excellency the Executive Governor, Samuel Ortom’s administration’s blue print “Our Collective Vision for a New Benue.” As you may already be aware that the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning was created with the sensitive responsibility of driving the business of governance and indeed ensure the realization of the developmental aspirations of the government and other state agencies. It is committed to ensuring probity, efficiency, transparency and accountability in the disbursement of public funds towards improving the state’s economy. It is also the duty and responsibility of the Ministry to ensure effective generation and management of funds needed to prosecute government business through statutory allocations from the Federation Account, Internally Generated Review (IGR) and the financial market. It is indeed incumbent upon the Ministry to effectively and prudently work to ensure the availability of funds required for the funding of government projects and programmes in the state to make democracy real and effective to the people of the state. STRUCTURE AND OPERATIONS The Ministry has been restructured severally since its creation in 1976 under successive administrations. Presently the Ministry has four departments namely:
  1. Department of Administration and Supplies
  2. Department of Finance and Accounts
  3. Department of Planning, Research and Statistics
  4. Department of pay-roll management, having recently ceded the department of Budget to the Benue State Planning Commission. (BSPC)
The Ministry also has cabinet responsibility over the following semi-autonomous agencies:
  1. Office of the Accountant-General (OAG)
  2. Board of Internal Revenue Service (BIRS)
  • Community and Social Development Agency (CSDA)
  FUNCTIONS OF THE MINISTRY Being a service ministry, the functions of the ministry of finance touch on other activities of all other governmental establishments and some other relevant non-governmental institutions within and outside the State. The statutory functions and responsibilities of the entire Ministry include the following:
  • To control government funds and revenue expenditure.
  • To ensure an improvement of the internally generated revenue of the state.
  • To receive and ensure effective management of the state’s allocation form the Federation Account and other sources including IGR, grants, aids and loans.
  • To ensure effective and efficient management to harness government resources for optimum productivity.
  • To explore avenues and means of income generation such as foreign aids and loans.
  • To exploit opportunities created by the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Securities Exchange Commission and the financial sector of the economy.
  • The establishment of monthly state stabilization fund.
  • To formulate and implement credible and realistic economic blueprint for the State.
  • To provide necessary advice to the government in areas of investment opportunities.
  • To maintain and operate State accounts in addition to publishing statutory financial statements and formulation of beneficial and productive accounting policies for the state.
  • To ensure strict adherence to;
  1. Finance Management and fiscal policy.
  2. Application and enforcement of Government Financial Regulations.
iii.    Acquisition and application of loans and advances.
  1. Prudent management of government investments.
  2. Application of external financial assistance and grants.
  3. Rules and regulation of Boards of Survey and Inquiry.
  1. Staff Biometric Audit and Verification
The Ministry has successfully conducted a biometric audit/verification of all State Civil Servants under the U-Pay to determine correctly those under the employment of the Benue State Government and to stamp out ghost workers. The Ministry now has a data base of State Civil Servants. This in turn saved the state enormous funds that were being stolen by corrupt officers who were benefitting from the scenario. There are also plans to take up staff of the Judiciary, Benue State University, Benue State University Teaching Hospital, the State Pensioners among other very few not covered by the U-Pay. This will effectively stamp out the ghost workers syndrome from the Benue State Government payroll.
  1. Introduction of a New Accounting System and Format
Prior to the Ministry ceding the Department of Budget to the Benue State Planning Commission, it introduced a new budget system and format. The new accounting system in electronic in nature, making for accountability and transparency in all government transactions and enhancing budget tracking. The Ministry is also carrying out reforms in Public Expenditure Management aimed at enhancing transparency, efficiency and accountability and also improving on the quality of governance. A new budget format with clear cut responsibilities has been introduced. It was part of plans by the MOF & EP to involve communities, civil society organizations and donors in the budget process. Even as the Budget Department has been excised to the Benue State Planning Commission, Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning continues to pursue these changes that have revolutionized financial management in the State. There are plans to have treasury buildings in all the 23 local governments headquarters in the state.
  • Introduction of New Payroll Management System
During the period under review and to lend credence to the staff verification and secure the salary payment process, the Ministry introduced and implemented a cost effective human resource management, payroll processing and salary administration system with seamless connectivity to the payment gateway capable of effecting online salary payment to all State employees irrespective of their banks nationwide. The benefits of the new system include:
  1. Prompt payment of salaries to employees accounts in any bank nationwide.
  2. Reduced cost of salary administration amounting to enormous savings on the part of the State Government.
  3. Prompt alerts and removal of names of persons due for retirement from the payroll system.
  4. Elimination of ghost workers from the payroll, among many other benefits.
  5. Procurement of Official Vehicles
The Ministry has before handing over the procurement of official vehicles to Ministry of Works, Transport and Energy, procured vehicles for the various MDAs and allocated some to political office holders, judicial officers, and civil servants on monetization basis. The policy allows allottees to pay 50% of the cost of the vehicles at the end of which the vehicles become their own. With the monetization policy of vehicles in place, Government gets more value for her vehicles as allottees are aware that at the end of four years the vehicles will automatically become their own personal vehicles with the payment of 50% of the cost of the vehicles. In this wise, the old practice where Government vehicles were recklessly used and rendered unserviceable with very short life span has been permanently taken care of. Apart from this, several vehicles have been procured to service heads of extra-ministerial departments whose income cannot fit into monetization policy of government. Such vehicles are to be used as official vehicles to facilitate the conduct of government business in such establishments. This has greatly eased movement and enhanced the supervisory role of government’s projects uner MDAs.
  1. Steady Improvement in Internally Revenue Generation
The ministry in the period under review has continued to witness steady improvement in revenue generation in conjunction with the Benue State Internal Revenue Service from her serving units (see attached financial performance table);
  1. Permanent Board of Survey has in line with the stores regulations been able to generate a total sum of N3,931,931.80 (three million, nine hundred and thirty one thousand, nine hundred and thirty one Naira, eighty kobo) only from disposal of unserviceable stores items between May 2015 and December 2016. This has helped clear Government office premises of unused stores items while simultaneously generating revenue for government. The board is also doing everything to ensure that at the end of 2017 there will be hardly any unserviceable item littering the premises of government offices.
  2. The State Tenders Board saddled with the responsibility of registration of contracts had over shot the targeted approved estimate of N50,000,000.00 (fifty Million Naira) only by generating a total sum of N259,038,997.65 (two hundred and fifty nine million, thirty eight thousand, nine hundred and ninety seven Naira, sixty five kobo) only for the period under review.
  3. Debt management
Government through the Ministry of Finance has been able to achieve:
  1. The liquidation of N13 billion bond,
  2. Liquidation of N1 billion Central Bank Nigeria CACS
  3. Training of 50 debt management officers form MDAs on public debt management.
There are also plans in the pipeline to put in place a semi-autonomous Debt Management office.
  • Final Accounts
  1. Financial Statement of the State have been produced and transmitted to the Auditor General of Benue State within reasonable time at the end of each accounting period.
  2. His Excellency has inaugurated the implementation of the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) in the State and work is at an advanced level for the State to become IPSAS compliant.
  3. The State Government has carried out capacity building for committee members domestication of the new chart of Accounts for Benue State.
  4. The State Government has also carried out a sensitization of stakeholders on IPSAS implementation, capacity building and setting up of IPSAS Implementation Committee at MDAs and Local Governments levels.
  5. The Benue State Government has successfully checked, confirmed and paid all salaries up to October, 2016.
  • Efficiency of Government Operations:
The State Government has commenced action aimed at setting up an efficiency unit with a view to ensuring that service delivery is not only effective but at a minimum cost comparable to private sector operations. When this becomes effective leakages and wastage will be reduced to the barest minimum and revenue generation and utilization will become most prudent, efficient and tailored towards public priorities based on goals set in consultation with the citizenries and civil society organizations. CHALLENGES World over, economies are in recession, including our country Nigeria and particularly our state. Consequently, resources are lean and funding of government business is increasingly difficult. The Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning is faced with the challenge of getting adequate funds from the Federation Account and from Internally Generated Revenue to fund annual budgets. Year in, year out, the annual income has always fallen short of the budgeted funds. The Ministry has continued to adopt measures to tackle this challenge through stepping up efforts towards elaborate ways of enhancing IGR internally and raising funds from the Nigerian Financial Market. We have attached some tables to buttress the points highlighted in this briefing. On behalf of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning and all agencies under her, I wish to thank you all for this opportunity to interact. God bless us all, Amen.