Monday, April 15, 2024

Lagos agency defends controversial bogus expenses by Governor Sanwo-Olu

  • We can make mistakes, governor counters

The Lagos State Government through the Office of Public Procurement Agency has said the N7.5 million budgeted for liquid fragrance in the office of the governor and other offices among several other public expenditures were affected by the “current economic realities.”

In a statement issued by the Director General, Lagos State Office of Public Procurement, Fatai Idowu Onofowote, the state government explained in comments the reasons for each of the budget items causing controversies.
It had been reported that Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu is presently in the eye of the storm after state procurement records showed he approved N7.5 million to replace liquid fragrance in his office and N3 billion to purchase rechargeable fans for the office of his deputy, Obafemi Hamzat.

The government later said the figure was N2 million.
Other contracts awarded by the state’s Public Procurement Agency in the 2nd and 3rd quarters of 2023 had included approval of over N440 million for the purchase of a new Lexus LX 600 Bulletproof Sport Utility Vehicle for use in the pool of the Office of Chief of Staff.

The office of the Chief of Staff also got N18.5 million for the supply and distribution of 2,000 Noiler chickens across the local government areas and wards in the state.
Reacting to the budget expenditure, the state procurement office said, “On the face of it and especially in the present economic circumstances, the amount of this award appears excessive in relation to the item procured.”
But the government in its defense said, “This covers the entire 2023 period of one year. It is also not limited to Mr. Governor’s office but extends to several offices and state houses. This is in tandem with current economic realities.”

Further in a statement, the procurement agency said the misinterpretations were not intended.
The statement partly read, “Our attention has been drawn to recent concerns regarding certain information posted on the Lagos State Public Procurement Agency’s website. Acknowledging the misunderstanding arising from the lack of clarity, we recognize the unintended misinterpretations of this information.

“The agency is committed to ensuring transparency, accuracy and accountability in all government transactions, as mandated by the Lagos State Public Procurement Law. We regret that specific details, particularly concerning the descriptions of government dealings, may have inadvertently led to confusion, impacting both governmental entities and corporate partners providing services to the state. This arose largely from the lack of detailed descriptions in the project information, which has inadvertently led to confusion in the public space.

“We empathize with public concerns and extend our sincere apologies for any distress caused. It is never our intent to cast doubt or cause misunderstandings that might tarnish the reputation of respected individuals and organisations involved in these transactions.

“To address these concerns thoroughly, the agency has taken immediate steps, Line-by-by-line explanations of the contracts in question are attached herewith, aiming to provide absolute clarity and dispel any lingering misconceptions.”

It added, “The Agency will continue to improve its internal processes and communication methods as our commitment as a government is to offer clearer and more accessible information to the public. It is pivotal to stress that the Agency’s autonomy exists to ensure fairness and transparency, not to cause confusion or discredit any involved parties.
“We therefore assure the public of our unwavering dedication to upholding the highest standards of integrity in all our operations. Looking ahead, we pledge our continued commitment to consistently and accurately report all government transactions in the State.

“Our unwavering commitment remains to elevate the standard of living and enhance the quality of life for the people of Lagos. Rest assured, this commitment will always take precedence.”
We can make mistakes, governor counters.

Meanwhile, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, on Tuesday, said no administration was immune to mistakes, adding that his government was committed to public goods.

The governor said this while reacting to the procurement record released by the Lagos State Public Procurement Agency during the inauguration of the Lagos State Building Control Agency Building, PWD Ikeja.

While welcoming the open letter by the governorship candidate of the Action Democratic Congress in Lagos, Funso Doherty, Sanwo-Olu assured him that the government will continue to publish its spending and keep it open for public scrutiny.

“We are committed, responsible and transparent. We don’t have a problem with anybody, or any individual. We acknowledge that these are ways we should be doing things.
“We appreciate criticism. We appreciate the fact that people can look at us in the face that we need to do well in the state,” the governor said in a video clip shared by his aide, Jubril Gawat, on X handle.

He added, “So we don’t have a problem with the originator of an open letter. In fact, we like it and we want to thank him, and that’s to say that indeed, to be a government that’s firm and responsible, we should not shy away from criticism.

“But it is only when criticism is malicious, unintended and it is to misrepresent the truth and that’s where there’s a problem.
“Some officers in Lagos have all come out to say that indeed we can make mistakes on some lines of items. I heard of a particular one that an item was meant to be N2m but it was written as N2bn.

“For me, I’m leading a team of very dedicated public officials; I’m leading a team of committed civil servants. I’m leading a team of self-motivated public officials who want to stand and say that they can be well recognised.
“All we want to do is to serve the people of Lagos, and serve the state with every iota of strength and commitment we have, and believing Lagosians can truly see the benefit of our service.

“I just want to make this point, and put it to rest. The website will continue to work. We’ll put all our numbers there and we’ll continue to pride ourselves at all times that indeed we can make mistakes but it is not any intention for us to be unmindful of what public goods are, and to ensure that public goods are what will continue to be respected.”

Also, the Lagos State Commissioner of Information, Gbenga Omotoso, and Commissioner for Budget and Planning, Ope George provided insights into the recently released 2023 Lagos Procurement Budget.
In an ARISE NEWS interview on Tuesday, Ope George stated that the aim of publishing the budget was to strive for accountability and transparency explaining that each classification was openly explained in a reply to Mr. Funso Doherty.

Adding to the statement he explained that the Lexus LX Bulletproof vehicle was assigned for transportation of dignitaries, not for the Chief-of-Staff.
“The Lexus Lx 600 SUV was budgeted for the office of the Chief of Staff and not for his personal use. It is meant to receive dignitaries visiting Lagos.

“There are certain specifications that need to be followed when purchasing these vehicles but we also purchased certain vehicles from Volkswagen in Nigeria so we do support local vehicles and manufacturers.”
Both commissioners stated that focus should be taken off the label of each item and focus should be put on the elaboration of each one.

They stated that the governor paid more attention to social attention through skill acquisition, and other means.
They also highlighted that the majority of funding set aside for renovations were mainly pumped into renovation and maintenance of tourist attractions such as the Saint Andrews Anglican Church and the Palace of Idunganran palace.

The commissioners assured that the procurement website will remain in the public domain to maintain the state government’s openness and expressed that they are open to opposition criticism to allow effectiveness in their work.

“Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu at his inauguration revealed his desire to work with the opposition, Mr. Funso Doherty’s background as an accountant makes him a good fit for Chairman of the Board of the Lagos State Procurement Agency.”

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