Awka – As part of efforts at deepening knowledge of citizens on the new Anambra State Public Finance Law 2020, a one-day sensitization workshop on the law was on Wednesday held for stakeholders in the state.
The workshop was organized by the State Ministry of Finance in collaboration with the State and Local Governance Reforms (ANSLOGOR) project, funded by the European Union and managed by the World Bank.
It attracted heads of government’s Ministries, Departments and Agencies, representatives of Civil Society Organizations, CSOs, Faith-Based Organization, FBOs, the Media among others.
Anambra State Public Finance Law was accented to by the State Governor, Willie Obiano on the 3rd of this month after the State House of Assembly passed it.
Speaking at the workshop, the Permanent Secretary, Anambra Ministry of Finance, Ebele Okonkwo said the overall goal of the law is to appropriately guide the state on how to source and apply its finances in a transparent manner to provide dividends of democracy to the people.
“The Law deals with the financial activities of the government or public sector organizations with regard to their compliance to the legislation and regulations governing the funding and administration of government activities.
“The law is to Regulate public financial management in the state, Ensure that all revenue, expenditure, assets and liabilities of the state are managed efficiently, effectively and economically and in a transparent manner, Ensure that officers are put in a position to be able to manage and control all available resources and be more accountable, Ensure timely provision of quality financial information and Eliminate waste,” the Permanent Secretary explained.
She explained that the workshop was for key staff of the Public Financial Management Institutions which centred on the new Public Finance Law, 2020, to ensure transparency and accountability in all government businesses.
Mr Sylvester Ezeanoluo, Head, Project Financial Management Unit for World Bank-Assisted Projects in Anambra, commended the sensitization initiative and advocated that it be stepped down deeper to the grassroots.
“A lot of misappropriation is going on in government because there are no streamlined guidelines for conducting government’s financial businesses. This stipulates who is responsible for what starting from the governor down to the workers. The idea behind this workshop is to ensure that stakeholders who are going to drive the implementation of this law, understand what it actually entails. You will agree with me that only a deep knowledge of the provisions of the law will enable citizens take advantage of it to sanitize the system. All we are saying is that this training be further stepped down to the various LGAs so that more people are aware of it,” he said.
The State Chairman, Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, ICAN, Chukwuemeka Oriaku represented by Emmanuel Muodozie, advocated strong will power on the part of government in terms of enforcement, to ensure that the innovative provisions of the law, engender the expected changes in the way government businesses are run.
Meanwhile, participants at the presentation of the State Public Finance law 2020, have disappointment over the numerous gaps and flaws they identified in the law.
Some of the gaps include the insufficient penalty for embezzlement of public funds, undue powers given to Account Officers for government Ministries, Departments and Agencies, inability of the Law to take into consideration, prevailing issues of the environment and health, among others.
They were of the opinion that if the State House of Assembly hyad organized public hearings and involved the relevant stakeholders, such gaps would have been identified and addressed before been passed into law.
A representative of Justice Development and Peace Commission, JDPC, Onyekachi Oloo, observed that the law only approves that a public officer who misappropriates funds be made to repay them, noting that the punishment will not be enough to deter officers from embezzlement.
For a consultant for Manufacturers Association of Nigeria for Enugu, Ebonyi and Anambra, Ijeoma Ezeasor, it is worrisome that a law passed in 2020, did not consider the impact of environmental and health issues in finance policy formulation.
“It is alarming that despite the ravages of the COVID pandemic, which was a Health issue but later became an economic issue as well as the massive flooding and erosion challenges we see in this state, this law failed to capture environmental and health occurrences as a serious issue that can affect the Law. Also as manufacturers, we are worried that the issue of Local Government Elections is still being swept under the carpet even when we know that revenue cannot be discussed without them being involved. So we felt that the State House of Assembly should be organizing Public hearings on Bills before them so as to integrate inputs from stakeholders and avoid gaps in laws,” she said.