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UK government ordered to reveal firms awarded ‘VIP’ Covid contracts

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UK government ordered to reveal firms awarded ‘VIP’ Covid contracts

The UK government has been ordered to reveal which companies were given “VIP” access to multimillion-pound contracts for the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the early months of the Covid pandemic, in a ruling from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has previously refused to disclose the names of 47 companies that had contracts awarded through the privileged, fast-track process allocated to firms with political connections.

A report by the National Audit Office (NAO) last year found that companies referred as possible PPE suppliers by ministers, MPs or senior NHS officials were given high priority by the DHSC procurement process, which resulted in a 10 times greater success rate for securing contracts than companies whose bids were processed via normal channels.

The Good Law Project (GLP), which first revealed the existence of a VIP lane, is together with fellow campaign group EveryDoctor challenging the DHSC over the lawfulness of the VIP lane and large contracts awarded to three companies: PestFix, Ayanda Capital and Clandeboye Agencies.

The government is defending the claims, arguing that the contracts were lawful and the suspension of competitive processes for all PPE contracts – that in total were worth £12.5bn – was justified due to the health emergency.

A government spokesperson confirmed last December that another company, PPE Medpro, had been awarded contracts worth £200m via the “high-priority lane,” but the DHSC declined to say how the company came to be given VIP status.

The NAO stated in its report that 47 companies had been given PPE contracts via what it termed the “high-priority channel” for those with political connections, but the then health minister James Bethell said the government did not intend to reveal their identities because “there may be associated commercial implications”.

The GLP applied in January under the Freedom of Information Act for the company names to be disclosed, which the DHSC took nearly three months to refuse. It took a further four months to carry out a review, then said on 7 September it would publish the names, but failed to do so. The GLP successfully complained to the ICO, whose ruling requires the names to be published by 22 November and states that the DHSC breached the Freedom of Information Act by failing to do so.

The GLP’s director, Jo Maugham, said: “If, and this shouldn’t be so, government needs to be dragged kicking and screaming to transparency, we’re here and we’ve shown time and again we’re happy to do that job.”

The DHSC was approached for comment.

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Naira depreciates further to N614/$ at parallel market

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Naira depreciates further to N614/$ at parallel market

The Nigerian naira has dropped to N614 against the dollar at the parallel section of the foreign exchange market.

The figure signifies a depreciation of N7 or 1.2 percent compared to the N607 it traded last two weeks.

Bureaux De Change operators (BDCs), popularly known as ‘abokis’, who spoke to TheCable in Lagos on Tuesday, said they purchase the greenback at N608/$, make a gain of N6, and then sell at N614.

At the official market, the naira also depreciated by 0.21 percent to close at N421/$ on Monday, according to information obtained from FMDQ OTC Securities Exchange — a platform that oversees official foreign-exchange trading.

Nigeria operates multiple exchange rate windows ranging from the importers and exporters window (I&E) window, where forex is traded between exporters, investors, and purchasers of forex, the SMEIS window where forex is sold to importers, and others.

International organisations such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have constantly advised the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to unify the official and parallel market exchange rates.

But Godwin Emefiele, the CBN governor, had said that despite advice offered by IMF and the World Bank, developing economies such as Nigeria had the liberty of adopting “homegrown solutions to their economic problems.

According to him, the managed floating exchange rate, which allows the CBN to intervene in the market when there is a supply shock, would be in place as long as supply exceeds demand.

“They want us to free the exchange rate. And you do know that this has some impacts on the exchange rate itself,” he had said.

“When you allow that to happen, you will have an uncontrollable spiral on the naira.

“But what managed float means is that we have some measures in place to help control the spiral.”

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FG, states in trouble, as NNPC again fails to remit, despite N470.61bn revenue

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FG, states in trouble, as NNPC again fails to remit, despite N470.61bn revenue

These are challenging times for the federal and state governments as one major source of income to the federation account seems to be totally cut off.

On Monday, The National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC) revealed it failed to remit monies to the federation account in May 2022 despite making N470.61 billion.

This is the fifth straight month NNPC has failed to credit the federal account while exporting crude at an average price of $100 per barrel.

Details of the June FAAC report obtained by The Harmattan News showed NNPC since the start of the year made N1.897 trillion, over N234.1 billion more than the expected revenue.

Sadly, however, NNPC said all the revenue had gone into various expenditure which includes petrol subsidy, oil search, Pipeline Security & Maintenance cost, National Domestic Gas Development and Nigeria Morocco Pipeline cost among others.

As expected, the bulk of the expenditure, N1.27 trillion, went toward recovery (also known as petrol subsidy).

In fact, NNPC said it has budgeted another N617 billion for petrol subsidy in June.

The report reads: “The Value Shortfall on the importation of PMS recovered from May 2022 proceeds is N327,065,907,048.06 while the outstanding balance carried forward is N617bn .”

“The estimated Value Shortfall of N845,152,863,012.97bn (consisting of arrears of N617bn plus estimated May 2022

Value Short Fall of N227,721,200,478.23) is to be recovered from June 2022 proceed due for sharing at the July 2022 FAAC Meeting,” it added.

The development means states have a tough road ahead and will have to look inwards to cover for the drop in federal allocations.

Already, some states have announced plans to slash workers’ salaries over dwindling income.

Kano Sate has already announced plans to slash workers’ salaries, following in the foot steps of the Ekiti State government that announced civil servants’ and political appointees’ salaries will be slashed in response to the present economic reality in the country.

Ekiti went further to suspend minimum wage implementation with no date of resumptions.

The Harmattan News had recently reported that pension contribution from governments dropped to a 16-year low in the first quarter of 2022.

From recent developments, it is more likely the figure will tank further.

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Nigerian govt to auction N225bn bond as search for funds continues

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Nigerian govt to auction N225bn bond as search for funds continues

Federal government bonds worth N225 billion would be auctioned today, Monday, June 20, 2022, by the Debt Management Office (DMO) at the primary market.

The debt instrument is being sold by the central government to raise funds to finance the 2022 budget deficit and in today’s exercise, the DMO is offering the notes in three tenors.

The debt office is anticipated to sell the FGN bonds at double digits to make the asset class more attractive to investors.

In a circular published on its website and obtained by The Harmattan News, all three maturities are re-opening, meaning they are from the previously sold bonds.

The circular noted that N75 billion worth of a 10-year bond with maturity in 2025 would be offered for sale at the auction. Another N75 billion worth of a 10-year note maturing in 2032 is up for grabs and N75 billion worth of a 20-year instrument with maturity in 2042 would be sold.

Intending subscribers would be expected to reach out to primary dealer market makers to buy the bonds for N1,000 per unit subject to a minimum subscription of N50 million and in multiples of N1,000 thereafter.

The interest would be paid by the government semi-annually, while the bullet repayment will be done on the maturity date.

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