The Lagos Internal Revenue Service (LIRS) through Deloitte, a leading professional firm, on Friday unveiled its whistle-blowing tip off channels to drive transparency, accountability and general public inclusivity in the affairs of the state.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that whistle-blowing is the act of drawing public attention, or the attention of an authority figure, to perceived wrongdoing and unethical activity within public, private or third sector organisations.
NAN also reports that the whistle-blowing service provides multilingual, multiple reporting channels such as toll-free hotlines, web portal, email and a mobile application.
Mr Ayodele Subair, the Executive Chairman, LIRS, at the launch of the “Deloitte Tip-Off Anonymous for LIRS” on Friday in Lagos, said the LIRS was chosen for the pilot phase due to its multi-faceted interface with the general public.
The launch, Subair said, asides from seeking to enlighten and sensitise the tax-paying public on the initiative was hinged on the commitment of the agency and the government to ensuring high ethical standards in all its business processes.
He said the LIRS, with the state ministry of finance, having an oversight function, subscribed to the Deloitte Anonymous and Confidental Whistle-Blowing Facility.
Subair said that the facility would promote an enabling climate for employees and other relevant stakeholders to report wrongdoings, illegal actions or financial crimes noticed and or observed in the LIRS administrative and operational activities.
This, he said, would be done without fear of backlash as it would assist in evaluating and improving existing system and assess key practices necessary to create an effective speak-up culture.
Subair said Deloitte’s engagement as independent assessor was to ensure an objective and unbiased review of issues raised.
“This whistleblowing facllity would involve the reporting of acts of commission or omission that border on unethical conduct of employees, management, and other stakeholders by an employee or other interested person(s) through designated channels to appropriate authorities.
“The aim of this policy is to encourage employees and other stakeholders who have serious concerns about any aspect of the agency’s operations to come forward and voice those concerns.
“The facility is designed to ensure that concerns about wrongdoing or malpractice within the agency can be raised by any stakeholder without fear of victimisation, subsequent discrimination, disadvantage of dismissal.
“This facility does not only provide the avenue to report, but ensures credibility of reports through investigation, feedback to the whistle-blower and ensures protection for such whistle-blower from possible reprisals or victimisation for all disclosures made in good faith,” he said.
Subair added that all concerns would be treated in confidence with efforts toward concealing the identity of the whistle-blower with anonymous reports considered for seriousness, credibility and possibility of confirmation from other sources.
He, however, said anonymity would make it much more difficult to protect the position of the whistle-blower or to give feedback.
“The whistle blowing framework is a two-way affair aiming to expose LIRS staff involved with misconduct, employees of business entities who want to report employers who circumvent tax laws.
“It also helps members of the public who want to raise an alarm on persons or entities who wilfully commit financial crimes leading to revenue loss for the state.
“It is noteworthy to mention that all reports must be made in good faith as allegations made frivolously, maliciously or for personal gain would attract appropriate sanctions.
“We are hopeful that all our stakeholders will join us on this journey of purposeful engagements toward achievement of high standards of ethical conduct in the public service space inclusive of dealings with and within LIRS,” he said.
Dr Rabiu Olowo, Lagos Commissioner for Finance, said the state government through the ministry approved the facility to provide channel of reporting by stakeholders, employees and the general public.
Olowo noted that research showed that every minute, in the workplace, wrongdoing was observed daily but people were left with very few choices, leading to the decision to remain silent, concluding that nothing could be done.
He said the initiative would remind people of their civic responsibility to report wrongdoing in workplace or in doing business with the government.
He added that the scheme would create a culture of accountability, raising the awareness of stakeholders on the responsibility of speaking up to foster a sound and effective corporate governance system.
“Without reporting it, there is nothing we can do, so launching this initiative today presents a channel that can be trusted and the least we can do is to discharge them of any reprisal.
“The LIRS was chosen for the pilot scheme because it represents a framework cuts across and interacts with almost all Ministries, Departments and Agencies.
“LIRS has over the years increased the state revenue with its present monthly average at N42 billion and reporting any misdemeanor that is not in line with the ethics of the government can shore up revenue,” he said.
Mr Samuel Egube, Commissioner, Economic Planning and Budget, Lagos, said citizens’ participation in governance via the whistleblower initiative opens up the state to accountability, transparency.
“Citizens’ improved participation through channels like this would stimulate trust and lead to all round growth and development,” he said.
Mr Beulah Adeoye, Partner, Deloitte, said the initiative was a whistle-blowing facility that affords callers the opportunity to raise concerns regarding wrongdoing, fraud or unethical behaviour within the workplace and report it to an independent party.
He listed attitudes depicting fraud to include; asset misappropriation, corruption, embezzlement, forgery, insider trading, maltreatment, money laundering, rebellion, nepotism, threat, and violent behaviour.
Others are dishonesty, bullying, bribery, harassment, expense claim abuse, kickback, stealing, under-invoicing misuse of authority, bribery and over invoicing.
He stated that key notes in making a report taking precautions, no malicious calls, provision of all available information.
“However, a report is not an evidence.
“The charge is when you see something, you say something and when you say something, you must be protected from the backlash that comes from it to foster a more ethical culture in our workplaces,” he said.
The Lagos State House of Assembly says a bill that will make operators of lottery, pools and betting in the state to pay N20 million as licence fees to the state government is underway.
The Speaker of the House, Mr Mudashiru Obasa, made this known at a public hearing on the bill in Lagos on Friday.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the bill was entitled; “Lagos State Lotteries And Gaming Authority Bill Arrangement of Sections”.
Obasa, represented by the Deputy Speaker, Wasiu Sanni-Eshinlokun, explained that the new bill, when it becomes law, would consolidate all the laws in the sector.
“The new bill will also repeal existing laws such as the Lagos State Lotteries (Amendment) Law 2008, the Lagos State Lotteries Law (2004), and the Casino and Gaming Regulatory Authority Law (2007).
“Others are Casino and Gaming Regulations (2007), Pools Betting Control Law (2003) and Pools Betting Tax Law (2003).
“In addition, before a license is granted to an operator, the authority shall be satisfied that the applicant is a registered company in Nigeria with a minimum share capital of N20 million or as may be directed by the authority.
“The bill also specified that the local content shareholder shall abide by the regulations, policies, terms and conditions issued by the authority,” he said.
Obasa said a sound legislature must be the aggregate of the common interest of the majority, and that it must perceive the interest of the people and aggregate it.
The speaker said to achieve the essence of democracy, the legislature must be in tune with the people.
He said this underscores the essence of public hearing as the worldwide gaming was worth $200 billion, saying several Nigerians are now involved in games and sports bettings.
Obasa said the addictive nature calls for caution, hence the need for an amendment of the 2008 lottery law as the bulk of the game were done on mobile gadgets.
The state Commissioner for Finance, Dr Rabiu Olowo, said that a lot had changed in the Nigerian gaming sector in the last 10 years and most of the people involved were youths.
“The future of gaming in Nigeria is bright. The regulations are very robust. So the bill addresses cyber security and addresses the concerns of many people. I want to urge all stakeholders to take it serious,” he said.
The Chairman, House Committee on Finance, Mr Rotimi Olowo, said in an interview that he was moved by the response of the stakeholders and the operators that attended the hearing.
Olowo, representing Shomolu Constituency I, added that the bill was meant to consolidate, gaming and virtual lottery in the state.
“We have different licences for individual products in the sector. The people have ventilated their opinions and we will work on them.
“The law is not meant for the operators alone, it is also meant for the regulators, we will look into all the areas.
“They are talking about service charge of three per cent, and they say it is small, but the sector is huge. We are not talking about digging into their data, but they should give us correct data,” he said.
The lawmaker said that the bill would help the state to gather enough money that would be used in the health sector, environment and even sports sector.
Olowo said that the money was not coming into the consolidated fund of the state, adding that it was meant to take care of the welfare of the citizenry.
The lawmaker explained that the bill had 109 sections with three regulations.
“It has about 109 sections and each of the sections is not talking about the same thing; some talk about lottery, gaming and others.
“We want to have all the laws in one place, so we will look at their positions and work on it.
“The issue of N20 million will be looked into by the regulators. We will look at the socio-economic reality and allow sanity into that sector.
“Some funny guys who are into yahoo come into the business, and some of them are involved in money laundering. Many Nigerians want to come into the sector, but they don’t have the wherewithal.
“So, we will not protect foreigners to the detriment of Nigerians. We can reduce the percentage, not that somebody who has the money will just come into it and we will allow Nigerians to suffer,” he said.
Olowo said that the state would be going into virtual gaming and that this has a lot of potentials for the people of Lagos.
He said that they would make sure that this did not deter investors or discourage residents of the state.
One of the stakeholders, Mr Adebagun Nojeem, from Lagos Pool Promoters, requested that the stakeholders in the gaming sector should be involved in the state’s Lottery Board.
He also suggested that the issue of N20 million share capital should be looked into.
“The issue of N20 million share capital should be looked into. It would have retroactive effect on the companies that have been registered.
“Pool is a game of the senior citizens. With the new capital base, we may go under.
“The 10 per cent charges on sales should be reduced to about 2.5 per cent. Penalty of N2.5 million should be reduced to N1 million or N500,000 and the issue of imprisonment should be removed,” he said.
Also speaking, Mr Tokunbo Akande from the Lagos Internal Revenue Service (LIRS), said licensing fees or royalties should be used in the bill instead of taxes and that there should be rooms for dispute resolutions in the bill.
On his part, Mr Niyi Adekunle from Grand Lotto, said that the first licence fee for lottery was issued in 2008 for N200 million, which he said was a huge amount.
Adekunle noted that a lot of people that applied for licences had passed away, and that the licence should be changed to reflect the universal license.
“A lot of people are restricted to just one form of lottery. The Lottery Board should be focused on the spending of lottery. People might do lottery not just for winning, but for some other activities.
“For instance, we could say the money spent on buying lottery ticket is for research on COVID-19,” he said.
Mr Chima Onwuka from the Nigerian Licences Lottery Operators said the taxation and levies imposed were becoming multiple, and called for the elimination of multiple taxation.
He said that the investors and operators were in the business to make money.
Also, Mr Clement Okoli from Betway Nigeria, advised that the House committee to relate with the regulators and operators for inputs before the bill is passed into law.
Emmanuel said in sports betting, almost every product was licensed separately, and the one licence should cover the whole business.
Edited By: Tayo Ikujuni/Wale/Ojetimi (NAN)
The Lagos State Government has urged striking doctors under its employment to suspend their three days warning strike and return to work.
The State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Gbenga Omotoso, made the plea in a statement in Lagos released on Monday night.
Omotoso said that the call became necessary after a joint meeting between the State Commissioners for Health; Establishments, Training and Pensions, and Head of Service with the Medical Guild, Association of Resident Doctors and relevant stakeholders on the warning strike.
He noted that the state government was disappointed at the warning strike embarked upon by the Guild.
The commissioner said that most issues raised by the Guild had been resolved, while unresolved issues were still being deliberated upon.
On some issues raised by the Guild, Omotoso said that the state was currently rotating health workers engaged in providing care at its isolation facilities.
He said that health workers were not being unceremoniously dismissed from the isolation centres, but returned to their primary posting to reduce fatigue and burn out among them.
According to him, the healthcare workers were being rotated to build capacity for treatment of COVID-19 across the health workforce, and to ensure that many health workers benefit from the additional allowances.
“Mr Governor has been extremely supportive of health workers being mindful of the extreme sacrifices that healthcare professionals are demonstrating in the COVID-19 response,” he said.
On the non-payment of COVID-19 allowances for May and June, Omotoso said that the state government started paying extra special COVID-19 allowances for frontline workers who were involved directly with the state COVID-19 response.
“This was put in place before any other state in the country, with payments as high as N672,000 per month, in addition to their normal remuneration packages for each cadre.
“This represents financial incentives over and above that paid by their federal counterparts,” he said.
On the Skipping Policy that places federal healthcare workers a Grade Level above their state counterparts, Omotoso said the policy was responsible for the disparity in the salary of state and federal doctors.
“It is important to note that this is not in conformity with the Scheme of Service agreed by the National Council of Establishment and is a subject of litigation in the Federal Court of Appeal.
“Therefore, the State Government cannot implement such a policy until judgment is delivered,” he said.
Omotoso maintained that a meeting had been scheduled with officials of the Lagos Internal Revenue Service (LIRS) to explore ways of reducing the tax burden on healthcare workers.
He noted that the state government would fast track testing of health workers on a weekly basis, adding that emergency testing of health workers would also be arranged when necessary.
“The Lagos State government recognising that the state is the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic in the nation has gone over and beyond its duty of care to ensure that welfare of the medical workers in the state is placed as top priority,” he said.
The commissioner said that the governor had given approval to the Health Service Commission to employ over 760 health workers of which at least 400 were doctors.
Omotoso, however, said the pandemic had made the government to adjust the recruitment procedure, adding that it would conclude the first batch of recruitment within a month.
He noted that all frontline health workers in isolation centres had been insured by a consortium of insurance companies, adding all civil servants in the state, including all health workers, had also been insured by LASACO.
Omotoso stated that the state government was committed to ensuring it won the COVID-19 battle.
He advised the Guild to continue to explore dispute resolution processes provided by the state government to resolve all issues.
The commissioner urged the Guild to bear in mind that this was an unusual time for the nation and the world.
Omotoso assured citizens that services at all state-owned health facilities could still be accessed while negotiation was ongoing with the Guild.
The News Agency of Nigeria recalled that the Medical Guild had on July 13 commenced three days warning strike over issues that affects their safety and welfare.
Edited By: Kamal Tayo Oropo/Olagoke Olatoye (NAN)
A 54- year-old man, Olusegun Akinrinlola, on Tuesday appeared in an Ikeja Chief Magistrates’ Court for allegedly stealing N690,000 from his company.
The police charged Akinrinlola, a consultant who resides at 6, Sola Soteri St., Baruwa, Ipaja, Lagos with conspiracy, forgery and theft.
The prosecution counsel, ASP Clifford Ogu, told the court that Akinrinlola committed the offence between October and November 2018 at Alausa, Ikeja.
Ogu alleged that the defendant’s company, Step Development Limited was supposed to pay N10,000 into the Lagos Internal Revenue Service (LIRS) account.
Ogu alleged that the defendant forged the LIRS demand notice and wrote N690,000 on it and presented it to his company.
The prosecutor also alleged that the money was given to the defendant to pay into the LIRS account but instead, he converted N690,000 to his personal use.
Ogu also alleged that LIRS discovered that the defendant’s company was yet to pay the N10,000 during auditing.
The prosecutor also alleged that the defendant ‘s deal was discovered when the LIRS contacted his company and asked for their N10,000.
The offence, he said, contravened the provisions of sections 287, 365 and 411 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State,2015.
The defendant pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Chief Magistrate J.A. Adegun admitted the defendant to bail in the sum of N200,000 with two sureties in like sum.
Adegun adjourned the case until March 27 for mention.
Edited By: Sadiya Hamza
The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) has appealed to the Lagos State Health Facility Monitoring and Accreditation Agency (HEFAMAA) to rescind its decision on tariff increase for health facilities operating in the state.
Dr Saliu Oseni, Chairman, Lagos State branch of the association, made the plea at the NMA Lagos Elders Forum on Monday in Lagos.
Oseni said HEFAMAA had arbitrarily increased tariffs without consulting the stakeholders, adding that renewal of licence was increased by about 150 per cent, saying it was improper.
“For you to change anything in the health sector, the stakeholders should be involved; people that registered by late last year and early this year registered at old price.
“Suddenly, you introduced a new price. If you are going to do that, you will start the discussion this year and implement it next year.
“We do not even see the basis for the increment, because the amount collected currently is even too much compared to what is meant to be collected.
“The renewal for hospital was supposed to be N20, 000 and it was increased to N50, 000. After our complaints, some adjustments have been made, but we are yet to be communicated.
“What we are saying is that they should return to status quo because we were not carried along,” he said.
Oseni said private hospitals in the state had been faced with series of challenges that was affecting healthcare delivery in the state.
“We used to have over three thousand private hospitals in Lagos, but now, we have less than 2,500 private hospitals, as people are shutting down because of the overhead cost.
“Government is turning HEFAMAA into revenue generating agency which is wrong. HEFAMAA is a regulatory body and government should provide the tax payers’ money to run them.
“To give the target to HEFAMAA to raise revenue is absolutely not acceptable because it puts more burden on people who are already burdened,” he said.
The NMA boss noted that some policies of the governments were counter-productive to the health sector, citing the Federal Compulsory Treatment and Care for Victims of Gunshot Act, 2017, as one of such policies.
Oseni said the Gunshot Act states that doctors report gunshot cases to the police within two hours, saying that in most cases, it was practically impossible.
According to him, if you are treating a bad gunshot patient, you may be on the patient for the next five hours without even thinking.
“The Act wants to criminalise you as a doctor attending to a gunshot patient, whereas government wants you to attend to people without pay and yet they are not providing funds to replenish your pocket.
“The target is against the doctor, but nobody is looking at the right of the doctors to earn wages because that is a constitutional right.
“I can give you treatment on credit, but you should have a way to pay back my money.
“You can imagine if I have 10 gunshot patients in the hospital in a month, I can tell you that in a critical gunshot situation, the cash spent on the patient can be as high as N500, 000.
“If I spend up to that amount on a patient, what will be my income.
“Meanwhile, Lagos Internal Revenue Service (LIRS) will come for tax and the government will want to bill me, these are critical issues.
“We have been talking to the government to look for a way to assist the private facilities,” he said.
The NMA chairman said those that passed the bill were not medical doctors, adding that the head of the House Committee on Health at that time was a veterinary doctor, thus oblivious of what was practicable.
Oseni said that the association converged the elders to brainstorm on mentoring and the appropriate steps to utilise toward resolving some of the challenges and policies affecting service delivery in the health sector.
Also, Dr Ayoade Adedokun, decried the absence of welfare of medical practitioners in the formation of various programmes and strategies of government intended to spur development in the health sector.
Adedokun was former Medical Advisory Committee (CMAC), Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Ikeja.
He said that lack of adequate welfare for doctors had led to brain drain, burnout, suicide and increasing cases of substance abuse among the doctors.
Adedokun urged NMA to intensify efforts in advocating welfare improvement for health workers in both the public and private health sector.
Responding, Dr Adebayo Aderiye, Chairman, Lagos State Health Service Commission, said that beyond employing more doctors to address the challenges of brain drain in the sector, creating an enabling environment would encourage many medical professionals.
Aderiye said HEFAMAA was an agency of government set up by law, adding that HEFAMAA would not do anything outside the power given to it.
He said a meeting should be set up by NMA and HEFAMAA to resolve the issue, noting that private health facilities were in operation to complement government’s efforts in healthcare service delivery to the public.
Edited By: Olagoke Olatoye
Mrs Yewande Sadiku, Director-General (D-G), Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC), on Monday said that the creative industry has the potential to generate more income that could boost the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country.
Sadiku said this at the opening of a two-day Creative Nigeria Summit at the Eko Hotels and Suites Convention Centre in Lagos themed, “Financing the Film, Television and Music Industries’’.
The Nigeria News Agency reports the summit which started on Monday would end tomorrow.
She said the theme focused on understanding the creative industry better so that it could be better explored by government and the organised private sector to generate more revenue for the country.
“The creative industry contributes about 1.4 per cent of the country’s GDP but it has the capacity to contribute more if it is properly understood.
“The industry creates employment and can be used as a veritable tool to educate its viewers concerning relevant matters which cut across all section of life.’’
Sadiku said that the government should not be directly involved in funding the creative sector but its duty was to provide an enabling environment for the industry to blossom.
“The government can assist in the development of the industry by providing infrastructure that will enable the industry to generate more money.’’
The NIPC boss gave an instance those movies as: ‘Half of the Yellow Sun’ and ‘Wedding Party’ can bring yield more revenue if more cinemas would be made available in the country.
“There is also the difficulty in getting licences to show films in the cinemas which the government can make more accessible.’’
Sadiku said that the government could also attract wealthy Nigerians to invest in the industry for better management of taxes.
Meanwhile, Mr Tokunbo Akande, the Special Adviser to Gov. Akinwumi Ambode on Lagos Internal Revenue Service (LIRS), said an understanding of the value-chain system of the industry would help pinpoint areas of support from the government.
Akande identified the value-chain system as creativity, aggregation, distribution and consumption as important areas where investment would stimulate growth.
“Direct funding is not really necessary from the government but an understanding of the value-chain system and how it works will help focus on area of investments.
“The government can also provide incentives to film producers to encourage the production of quality movies in the country,’’ he said.
Similarly, Mr Tony Okoroji, Chairman, Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON), said that effective leadership in the industry was necessary to curb piracy.
“The protection of intellectual properties cannot be over-emphasised because this accounts for the foundation where creativity stems from’’.
Okoroji said that the deployment of stronger legislature and technology could also help reduce piracy in the country.
Edited by: Bola Akingbehin/Peter Dada