Policy Alert, a non-governmental organisation working for improved economic and ecological outcomes in the Niger Delta, has commended the Cross River State Government for timely publishing its 2022 budget and related fiscal documents online, while harping on the need for improved credibility in the implementation of the state’s budgets.
The comments were made on Monday by the organisation’s Executive Director, Tijah Bolton-Akpan, during the 2022 Budget Presentation event organised in Calabar by the state’s Budget Office.
“We are excited that the state’s 2022 approved budget and other fiscal documents are now online. This improvement in fiscal transparency is commendable,” Bolton-Akpan said.
“Next, we want to see the state’s budget documents in one location, rather than on the multiple websites where they are currently domiciled. This will promote ease of access and analysis by accountability actors and citizens in general.”
He further noted that poor implementation especially for the capital budget was fast turning the budget process into an empty ritual:
“While there have been nominal increases in budget allocations to social sectors such as health and education compared to 2021, a look at last year’s budget performance report shows that capital budget implementation for these two sectors have been very poor, standing at 0.8 percent and 3.6 percent respectively.
“The picture is worse with agriculture, where the capital budget for last year was N8.9 billion but only a paltry N150 million was released.
“Unfortunately, in the 2022 budget only N4.9 billion has been approved as capital spending for the agriculture sector, despite Cross River being a largely agrarian state.
“It is laudable to note that in the last two appropriations, the state has moved away from the trend of bloated and unrealistic budgets, but in 2022 efforts must be concentrated on improving budget credibility in order not to make another mockery of the entire exercise.”
According to him, Policy Alert also spotted a number of red flags in the state’s 2022 budget and the 2021 budget implementation report.
“These include Government House, which gets a sudden 152 percent increase in its capital budget compared to the 2021 revised capital budget, and N20.94 billion for its overhead, representing 26.1 percent of the overall overhead for 2022.
“Others are the bogus appropriation of N32 billion to the Office of the Chief of Staff to the Governor which is an 82 percent increase on the N17.6 billion appropriated in 2021, N7.9 billion to the Ministry of International Development and Cooperation up from N2 billion in 2021, and N22.4 billion to the Ministry of Aviation Development.
“Other red flags spotted include the extra-budgetary spendings of N889.8 million and N4.2 billion above the approved 2021 appropriations for security vote and Ministry of Aviation respectively,” he added.