**DG’s Daughter in Promotion exam scandal
**Staff flay DG’s indiscretion at public functions
**New Accountant hired to cover dirty deals
**Head office Landlord kicks over N40m rent
Mounting disquiets currently trail activities at the National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) and these may certainly not ebb very soon. Daily, allegations of official high-handedness, poor management style and malfeasance are coming in torrents against some actions by the Ms Patricia Bala-led management team. MUSA SIMON REEF, who has been monitoring developments at the Centre, reports
Some stakeholders and even staff are not afraid to portray her as not particularly the approachable type. And for all they can perceive, her style of administration at the Board easily fits the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed’s open admission that there is the ‘dire need for purposeful, practical, dynamic and experienced leadership’ at the helms of affairs of three agencies directly related to the film industry.
Competent sources insist the above worrisome scenario is playing out at the NFVCB where Ms Bala has been running things as Director General for about four years now. The first year being in acting capacity following the exit of former Chief Executive, Mr Emeka Mba to head the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC) in 2012
So, the concerned stakeholders and staff said there should be no hiding place for Ms Bala as the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) continue to spread its dragnet around Ministries, Agencies and Parastatals (MDAs) because her official conduct supposedly leaves much to be desired.
In the centre of current agitations among the NFVCB’s workers is Madam’s alleged open display of nepotism during the 2015 promotion examination because ‘her daughter was involved’. A competent source disclosed that in this period of prudent management of scarce resources in government circles, a princely sum of over 12 million Naira was wasted to conduct a new test because Madam’s daughter, who is a lawyer in the Jos zonal office, was among those that failed and performed below par in the initial exercise.
According to the source, Ms Bala got so infuriated when the result came out and her daughter’s name among the failed list. “She accused the team in charge of the promotion examination of gross incompetence and lacking in integrity just because her daughter did not make it. So for her, everything done then was utter rubbished and cannot in anyway enjoy the management’s approval,” the source said.
Forefront learnt that to pacify her, the examination was cancelled and a new one ordered where the ground was fully prepared to ensure Madam’s girl did not fall victim of that examiners’ failure grades. At the end of it all, everything went fine and the team got kudos for a job well done.
However, the Board is now faced with a new challenge as some staff that were successful in the initial promotion examination found their names as having failed the repeated test for no good reason. And this angry group has already taken up the gauntlet to demand for justice.
One of the aggrieved staff told Forefront, “It is curious that just because her daughter’s name is among those now listed as successful candidates, the retake promotion exam is adjudged to have passed the integrity test by Madam Bala. We are only seeking justice. All we want is having external examiners to oversee a new exercise for fairness and equity. Every staff believing he or she is due for promotion should not be afraid of such independent assessors who will operate without the overbearing influence of the Chief Executive and some of her cronies in the management team.”
Among the Director General’s list of ‘sins’ against the staff are
issues of poor welfare packages and outstanding Duty Tour Allowance (DTA) owed those who traveled from various States to sit for the promotion examination. Our source said the staff’s anger is rife that “instead of sorting out their outstanding arrears and DTA from the cancelled exercise, Madam found it more convenient to cough out a huge 12 million Naira to fund the new exercise just because of her special interest.
Narrating another worrying development within the Board, a stakeholder, who does not wants his name in print for fear of likely repercussion, alleged that the Ms Bala’s indiscretion, even at official functions, is a public knowledge and has become a serious concern to Staff and stakeholders in the industry. Hear him, “It is an open secret that our Chief Executive, not minding that she runs such an important agency, plainly throws decorum and caution to the winds at some public events.”
To further substantiate his claims, the source hinted of a case where one Alhaji Tanko was sanctioned for ‘daring to advice Madam.’ Giving further insights about the incident, the source told Forefront that, “During one of our public events, some staffers and even guests were overheard making derogatory remarks about Ms Bala’s alleged indiscretion. So, a worried Tanko, then overseeing the Board’s corporate image unit, discreetly whispered in vernacular to Madam for restrain in her indulgence. Regrettably, rather than being appreciative that she was saved from likely public odium at the event, Ms Bala took offence and without any deference to Tanko’s brilliance in delivering positives on assigned responsibilities, ordered his immediate transfer to the Kano office for what her close aides described as “sheer impudence’ by a staff in advising Madam on what should constitute ‘appropriate behavior in public’.
Similarly, allegations of financial malfeasance and sneaky deals have become regular features at the Board with accusing fingers pointing at the new ‘Accountant’ brought in by Ms Bala under contentious circumstances to displace the former occupant of that office. Forefront reliably gathered that not comfortable with perceived rigid attitude of the ex- Accountant and his hard-hitting audit queries, the Chief Executive underhandedly transferred him to Lagos office only to accommodate his junior in rank on Grade Level 13 from the Office of the Auditor General for the Federation (OAUGF).
“But curiously, this same officer from Nasarawa State, purportedly on secondment, was confirmed as a full staff and made to act as Assistant Director on Grade Level 15 in less than a year. Interestingly, when the former officer got promoted and confirmed on Level 15 as Assistant Director, Madam quickly moved to effectively stop his possible return by making the new man an acting Deputy Director on Level 16. Quite absurdly, the new Accountant’s acceleration in Service from Level 13 to 16 took place within a spate of two years against all known civil service rules and due process,” our source said.
Following up on the issue, our source volunteered that Madam seems quite at home with the new Accountant, who reportedly visited the Agency on regular audit assignments from the OAUGF before he was eventually brought on board. “For now, there are heightened insinuations that Madam’s decision to woo the new Accountant with the perks of his latest office is part of the grand design to allegedly cover up some dirty deals that might have manifested during his time as the external auditor. This is essentially in the area of annual revenue accruing from the Board’s activities that some staff confessed has always been under-declared to the Federation Account. Also, the issue of the Board’s huge expenditure profile has been on the searchlight for some time now with certain outlays having question marks that are yet to be addressed by the Ms. Bala-led management in the last three years.”
Insiders confirmed that the alleged mismanagement of past and incoming finances has put the Board in a dire financial situation. This is aptly manifested in its inability to renew the about 40 million Naira headquarters’ rent at Plot 20, Alexandria Crescent, Wuse II, Zone A7, Abuja, Federal capital Territory (FCT). According to them, this embarrassing state of affairs has become so distressing that the management is already seeking an alternative accommodation from the parent Federal Ministry of Information and Culture within the popular 11-storey Radio House building.
By the insiders’ estimation, the current mess may snowball into full blown staff versus management showdown if the Information Ministry does not move urgently to sanitize the Board as earlier indicated by the Minister, Mr Lai Mohammed in a recent private session with key stakeholders in the creative industry. At that meeting, the Minister had cited the Nigerian Film Corporation (NFC), National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) and National Theatre (NT) as agencies whose headships have “been anti-intellectual, secretive and monotonous.” In the same vein, he acknowledged receiving complaints that “those appointed to run those parastatals have shown lack of capacity to put the industry on the path of growth especially in this era of change.”
A senior staff, who expressed surprise at the downturn of events with Madam in charge, said given that she was among the Directors that openly complained about the so-called high-handedness and discriminating tendencies during Emeka Mba’s time at the Board, “some of us had thought that her tenure would be something for the staff to happily cheer about.” Continuing, he said with the way things have been playing out, it may become increasingly difficult for the Board to effectively execute its regulatory mandate in the Nigeria motion picture industry.
Allegations are baseless – Bala
*Insists on loyal staff for sensitive positions
However, the Director General of National Film and Video Census Board, Ms Patricia Bala is certainly not the type to shy away from facing criticisms because she believes there is absolutely nothing to hide or be afraid of in the discharge of her official duties.
Typical of our style where all sides must be given fair hearing, Forefront confronted her with the unflattering allegations of corruption, nepotism and high-handedness among others. Readily, she spoke through the Board’s Head of Corporate Affairs, Mike Ekunno, maintaining that the management has done nothing untoward in handling NFVCB’s affairs as some critics may want the public to think.
In a written reply to Forefront enquiries, Ms Bala said, “There was no favouritism involved in the cancellation of the promotion examination under reference. The entire examination was set aside by the then Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Information after her fact-finding visit to the Board.” According to her, “My initial reservation was with the outcome of the management cadre results which showed a parochial bias. As you may know, my daughter is not a management staff. For the Perm-Sec to authorize the cancellation and re-sit of the exam, must convince you that the issues went beyond the fate of my daughter.”
Giving further explanations on the issues raised, Ms Bala stated that, “There was no N12million spent for the conduct of the exams to the best of my knowledge. Meanwhile, the DTAs for the first exam have since been fully paid. Cancellation of promotion exams due to widespread irregularities is not peculiar to this Board as a cursory research will prove.”
The Director General, who also denied the so-called cover-up of some unholy actions in the Board, had this to say, “I have no dirty deals to cover up. The Accountant is on secondment from the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation where he had attained the position of Assistant Director on GL 15 before being further elevated to the next Grade Level as is the practice for officers on such movement. This is not a special arrangement as my predecessor had also brought in staff from the AGF’s office for the same position, who was similarly enhanced.”
Insisting the Board’s record books are clean, she told Forefront that, “We are fully audited periodically from the Auditor-General’s Office. On a personal note, I have unilaterally slashed the imprest for the DG’s Office from N600,000:00 monthly to only N200,000:00 and cleared the backlog of inherited debts which stood at about N150million.”
On claims of an existing face-off with the landlord over unpaid rent, Ms Bala said; “This is a piece of misinformation. Rent is not paid from revenue throughout the Federal public service. It is paid from service-wide vote which comes directly from the government. Our present office premises was rented by my predecessor and the rent has been as inherited by me.”
Also for her, allegation of staff’s victimization through punitive transfers remains a non issue as “Transfer of staff is normal in the public service, especially for in-coming chief executives who have to decide those whose loyalties are not in doubt for sensitive positions.”