Mr Kenneth Okoineme, Public Finance Analyst Consultant, has advised journalists covering health issues to track budgetary provisions on the Coronavirus (COVID-19) funds in the country.
Okoineme made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on the sideline of a 3-day Annual Health Conference of Association of Nigeria Health Journalists (ANHEJ) at Goshen City, Nasarawa State.
Okoineme, a consultant with the International Society of Media in Public Health (ISMPH), however, rated health journalists high in the covering of COVID-19.
“The media has done well in the reportage of COVID-19. If not for the media, there would have been a lot of fake news and a lot of conspiracy theories. The media has been able to find its purpose in the whole situation, in trying to give balance and accuracy that reflect the reality on the ground. The media needs to play a more significant role in terms of the reportage it puts out there. It has to deepen the nature of reports it puts out there. For example, the issue around mismanagement of COVID-19 funds. The media has a role to tell the people the truth. The media needs to deepen its reportage; it needs to do more of investigative reporting to help build our country again”.
According to him, it is important that every kobo counts.
He said “This is where I call upon the international development partners, Civil Society Organisations to support journalists on budget tracking. It will help them to build the reign of accountability in country”.
In addition, he said COVID-19 had impacted on journalism, saying “COVID-19 distrusted a lot of things, the way news is reported, accessed and shared; what we have seen is full digitalisation of the media”.
He said the pandemic had changed the way news is reported, is accessed and shared; what we have seen is full digitalisation of the media.
“Full digitisation and the use of big data and investigative reporting because the pandemic has taught us a lot of things on public finance management, accountability in public finance management.
“It has put journalists at the fore front of providing the kind of information that people need; that places more responsibility on the media”.
Okoineme said why ISMPH was interested in budget tracking for journalists was to educate them on their role in tracking mismanagement of public finance.
“COVID-19 has changed the role media plays in terms of management of public finance and if we want to meet the target of eradicating several acute malnutrition; it is important to track budget. It is important that money that is budgeted for this purpose, serves the purpose in which it is budgeted for. The resource of government has declined because of COVID-19 and what it means is it that government has to prioritise and the resources available should be used more judiciously. The media plays an important role to ensure that accountability happens so they should take a closer look at the issue of financing in their reportage”.
Okoineme, a resource person at the conference had earlier spoken on “Tracking and Utilisation of Nutrition Budget”.
The conference which started on Friday ended on Sunday, with knowledge learnt on ways of deepening reportage in health sector, COVID-19 and reproductive health, among others.
The focus of the 4th Annual Health Conference of ANHEJ is on “COVID-19 Reportage Assessment”.