Akwa Ibom State

Draft #Budget2020: Policy Alert Urges Stronger Oversight

By Editor

Uyo, NIGERIA – Policy Alert, a non-governmental organization working to promote socio-economic development in the Niger Delta, has called on the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly to step up its oversight of budget implementation in the state.

The organization made the call today during the Public Hearing on the 2020 Appropriation Bill organized by the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly Committee on Appropriation and Finance.

Presenting its Memorandum to the Committee, Executive Director of the organization, Tijah Bolton-Akpan, said:

“We urge the Seventh Assembly to pass this budget quickly to enable us return our long-distorted budget cycle to a January to December calendar.

“But, beyond that, we look forward to a more effectively implemented budget in 2020.

“In the recent past, poor capital budget implementation and leakages have been enabled by weak oversight on the part of institutions saddled with the responsibility of oversight on the budget process. These include the various Committees of the House of Assembly, especially its Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

“Despite several budget infractions by government Ministries, Departments and Agencies as highlighted by successive reports of the Auditor General of Akwa Ibom State, the PAC has failed to bring such erring institutions to book, a situation that allows corrupt and inefficient practices to fester.”

The memorandum also asked the Assembly to increase the allocation to the Office of the state Auditor General, noting that the continued underfunding and denial of autonomy to that office appears contrived to weaken its oversight function over budget implementation in the state.

“The State Auditor General’s Office was only able to access 10 percent of the paltry 500 million that was voted for it in the 2018 budget and even though we don’t have the details for 2019, it is doubtful that 2019 will be any different.

“This situation adversely affects the quality of audit reports and its timeliness, undermines transparency and accountability, and allows corruption to thrive.”

Declaring the event open, the Speaker of the Assembly, Rt. Hon. Aniekan Bassey, represented by Deputy Speaker Princess Felicia Bassey, had reassured participants that the Seventh Assembly is committed to ensuring not only prompt passage of the budget, but also transparent, accountable and effective implementation through its oversight functions.

Earlier in his remarks, Chairman of the Committee, Rt. Hon. Uduak Ududoh stated that the Seventh Assembly is committed to opening up the budget process to public inputs, which is reflected by its extending its invitation to a much broader range of stakeholders, and promised that the House would be guided by the inputs of the public in its deliberations on the budget.