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‘No evidence’ conflicts of interest were considered in Lex Greensill contracts – NAO

Lex Greensill

‘No evidence’ conflicts of interest were considered in Greensill contracts – NAO

Whitehall’s independent watchdog has found “no evidence” that ministers or officials considered potential conflicts of interest before giving the disgraced financier Lex Greensill government contracts just months after he had left a job as a No 10 adviser.

The National Audit Office said Greensill left a job as an adviser to David Cameron, then the prime minister, in 2017. Eight months later, his firm was involved in a bid for a large public sector contract.

A report released on Friday said the two projects involving Greensill Capital – an early-payment scheme for pharmacies and a salary advance facility for employees of NHS trusts – did not receive the expected uptake and offered no material benefits to the NHS.

Greensill Capital collapsed in March 2021, triggering a series of investigations examining the financier’s close links with the government and Cameron’s lobbying activities.

Meg Hillier, chair of the Commons public accounts committee, said: “This report provides further information on the role of Lex Greensill and Greensill Capital in providing government services.

“It raises yet more questions over the government’s ability to prevent conflicts of interest and the independence of advice it receives.

“The consequences once again fall squarely on the taxpayer, with increasing risks to value for money and promised savings vanishing into thin air.”

Auditors said Greensill advised ministers and officials on supply chain finance in various roles from 2012 to 2017.

He attended a “key meeting” in March 2017, his final month advising the government, which considered the setting up of a framework agreement for supply chain finance.

By November 2017, Greensill Capital was a subcontractor to a firm called Taulia as part of a bid to provide supply chain finance to the public sector, ultimately landing the pharmacies deal.

The scheme allowed chemists to be paid for dispensing prescriptions earlier than they would have under NHS systems.

“We have seen no evidence that there was any discussion of a potential conflict of interest in relation to Greensill Capital being appointed as a subcontractor for supply chain finance services, about which Lex Greensill had earlier provided advice,” the NAO said.

The report found there is “no evidence that the predicted benefits and savings” from the pharmacies deal were ever realised.

The collapse of Greensill resulted in the government stepping in to pay pharmacies for predicted dispensing activity, although the cost to taxpayers was “minimal”.

Greensill’s salary advance scheme for NHS trust workers – Earnd – resulted only in “limited employee uptake”, the NAO said.

After the firm failed, some NHS trusts switched to a paid-for salary advance scheme, rather than the free version that had been offered by Greensill.

A government review by the corporate lawyer Nigel Boardman into the Greensill scandal called for a new code of conduct and greater clarity about who is funding lobbying in Whitehall.

The extent of the lobbying efforts, which included Cameron contacting the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, on his private mobile phone, were initially revealed by media reports rather than official records. The scandal raised concerns over the way private businesses have been able to hire and use former officials to try to gain preferential access to government contracts.

Boardman recommended in his review that the “transparency of lobbyists be strengthened”, including by “requiring lobbyists to disclose the ultimate person paying for, or benefiting from, their lobbying activity”.

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Nigeria oil production drops to 1.231m barrels per day- OPEC

OPEC: Russia-Ukraine war causing volatility in global energy market

Nigeria’s crude oil production suffered its second consecutive monthly decline since the beginning of this year, as it dropped to 1.231 million barrels per day in March, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries has revealed.

OPEC disclosed this in its latest Monthly Oil Market Report for April 2024, stating that crude oil production details which it got through direct communication from Nigeria showed that the country pumped less oil in March compared to February.

Data from the report indicated that Nigeria produced 1.322 million barrels per day of crude in February this year, but this dropped to 1.231mbpd in March, representing a plunge of 91mbpd.

The report further added that the country had produced 1.427mbpd of crude in January, but this was not sustained in February as it dropped in that month, while the southward oil production continued in March.

However, OPEC data showed that Nigeria’s average crude oil production in the first quarter of 2024 was 1.327mbpd, higher than the 1.313mbpd average oil production in the fourth quarter of 2023.

Nigeria’s first quarter oil output in 2024 was also higher than the 1.201mbpd average production in the third quarter of 2023.

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Emirates Airlines to resume Nigeria flights soon – Keyamo

Emirates, UAE, has concluded plans to resume flights with Nigeria.

This followed numerous visits from President Bola Tinubu to UAE over the communication breakdown between both countries.

Featuring on Arise Television on Monday, the Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Festus Keyamo, said the Emirates Airline had already indicated its readiness in a letter sent to the Nigerian Government.

Keyamo explained that what transpired during the earlier visit and resolution was not fake but was presented in a ‘hasty’ manner.

He said: “Emirates flight resumption is almost happening. I just received a letter from Emirates. The letter is on my phone now. They have gone through all the gamut and they are ready to come back. They will announce the date because to restart a route, they must get an aircraft for that route.

“I am announcing to Nigerians for the first time; that I just received a letter from Emirates now. The letter is with me. I have a hard copy thanking you for all the efforts we made. Mr President was the showman here. He was the one who pushed for it. He made my job easy because he went there, and had a diplomatic shuttle to resolve all the issues.

“That was why I said the last announcement was hasty and not fake news.

“They will announce the date for their next flight. We have received a letter confirming that all the issues have been resolved and prepared to start coming back. It may be before June.”

Apart from Emirates suspending flights to Nigeria, in 2022, the UAE Immigration Department notified its trade partners and travel agencies that it was stopping visa applications from 22 countries, 20 of which are African nations.

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CICB records 63% revenue growth in 2023

The Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria, CIBN, says it recorded a 63.60 per cent growth of operating revenue, which stood at N1.37 billion in 2023, marking a significant increase from the N837.94 million recorded in 2022.

CIBN’s president, Ken Opara, disclosed this on Saturday in Lagos.

Opara added that the cost-to-income ratio for the year ended December 31, 2023, stood at 50.72 per cent, down from 59.41 per cent in the corresponding period in 2022.

“I am particularly delighted that our institute continued to wax stronger financially, notwithstanding the economic downturns and headwinds in 2023.

“It is on record that our institute, for the first time, crossed the one billion Naira mark by achieving a Net Operating Surplus of N1.371 billion in 2023 when compared with N837.943 million achieved in 2022, representing a growth of 63.60 per cent.

“Similarly, total revenue grew from N2.065 billion recorded in 2022 to N2.782 billion in 2023, representing 34.72 per cent growth, while total assets grew from N7.821 billion in 2022 to N9.119 billion in 2023.

“The cost-to-income ratio for the year ended December 31, 2023, stood at 50.72 per cent, down from 59.41 per cent in the corresponding period in 2022. This ratio is way below the approved Governing Council threshold of 61 per cent for the 2023 financial year.

“I am persuaded that with prudent and efficient management of resources, as well as diligent execution of our strategic plan, our institute will sustain this northward trajectory,” he said.

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