Okon Bassey in Uyo
An Uyo-based non-governmental organisation, Policy Alert, has called on the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly to effectively monitor the implementation of the Stateâ€™s 2018 appropriation bill of N646.65 billion passed into law last week.
The body, which parades itself as the Grassroots People Empowerment Foundation in the state, advised that the lawmakers should not go to sleep after passing the bill.
The organisation in a statement issued in Uyo by its Senior Programme Officer, Florence Ani stressed that the Assembly will be seen and described as â€œpeople assemblyâ€ if seriously attention is given to the oversight functions in ensuring total implementation of the budget as passed.
â€œCapital budget performance for Akwa Ibom State has been rather poor over the past five years at an average of about 35 percent. It is now evident that the key public finance management challenge for the state is not appropriation per se, but effective budget implementationâ€, it said.
Noting the allocations to education, health and agriculture sectors, the body urged that â€œthe legislature has a very critical role in ensuring that the annual budgeting process is not reduced into a public ritualâ€.
â€œWe commend the State House of Assembly for raising allocations to education, health and agriculture from the original proposalsâ€, but noted note that the increases were only marginal and can only be compensated for by timely cash backing and strict implementation.
According to the body, â€œWe therefore urge the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly to strengthen its oversight on the 2018 budget.
â€œFor the budget to be successfully implemented, the House will need to keep a close eye on those Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) with revenue raising mandates as most of them have come to view the annual appropriation as a license to spend without corresponding responsibility to generate revenue for the state.
â€œThe state cannot continue using scarce federal transfers to indulge the fiscal appetite of some MDAs that have become sinking holes.
â€œThe practice of unbridled opening of spending taps should be discontinued and MDAs must be held accountable for their performance with sanctions meted out to erring MDAs and officials.
â€œThe House of Assembly Public Accounts Committee (PAC) will need to initiate public hearings on the annual Auditor Generalâ€™s report and make its own findings accessible to the public.
â€œThis will bring more accountability to bear on the budget implementation process and enable the House to pursue remedies on infractions in budget implementation.â€
â€œWe also urge the House to pass a resolution urging the state government to sign on to the sub-national initiative of Nigeriaâ€™s Open Government Partnership (OGP).
This multi-stakeholder peer review initiative will place the state in an elite club of open government reformers, save billions of naira for the state by plugging leakages and position the state to attract millions of dollars in alternative development funding from international institutions.â€