By Ekemini Simon
Policy Alert, a Civil Society Organization working on fiscal justice has sounded the alarm over the level of budget implementation in key social and developmental sectors in Akwa Ibom State.
The Organization which highlighted these key development sectors as health, education, agriculture and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) said the percentage of capital releases to the sum budgeted for these sectors in 2020 and first half of 2021 in comparison to what was budgeted and released for administrative sectors raise a red flag on the priority of the Akwa Ibom State Government.
Policy Alert made this known at the 7th annual edition of her Akwa Ibom State Open Budget Forum held in Uyo on Thursday, September 9, 2021.
The Organization noted that in the analysis of the Accountant General’s report with audited financial statements for year 2020 of the Akwa Ibom State Government, the report shows that Education had 26.2 budget performance having had a release of N1.1bn out of N4.2bn budgeted. The analysis showed that Health had 27.8 percent performance having enjoyed N2.2bn out of N7.9bn budgeted. WASH had zero release despite having a paltry budget of N228 million while Agriculture enjoyed 46.5 percent performance having had N3.3bn release out of N7.1bn budgeted.
Policy Alert in its analyses showed that the below 50 percent budget performance was not the case with some administrative MDAS of interest as they enjoyed greater releases. The analysis showed that the top fourMDAs in capital budget performance in their top order were; Office of the Accountant General, Akwa Ibom State Budget Office, Government House, and Office of the Secretary to the State Government (SSG).
Accountant General’s Office had 82.1 percent performance having enjoyed a release of N13.3bn out of N16.2bn budgeted. Budget office had N5bn out of N7bn budgeted thus had 71.4 percent performance. Government House had 70 percent performance having had N12.1bn releases out of N17.4bn budgeted and the SSG’s office having N4.3bn releases out of N7.2bn budgeted thus leaving them with 60 percent performance.
On top 10 spenders in their order are: Ministry of Works, Office of Accountant General, Government House, Special Duties, Akwa Ibom State Budget Office, Office of the Secretary to the State Government, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Trade and Investment, Ministry of Health, and Ministry of Finance.
According to the Executive Director of Policy Alert, Mr Tijah Bolton-Akpan ” We commend the Akwa Ibom State Government for their release to Health and Education and Agriculture, a little improvement has been recorded. Is there room for improvement? Yes, there is. However, it is sad that issues of Water Sanitation and Hygiene are not important for the State Government. For about seven years now, there have been no capital release for these sectors. This portends great danger for the future.
” Akwa Ibom State is about the only State in this region that has spent nothing on WASH. Yet, States around us have gone far. In 2020, Bayelsa had 100 percent budget performance for WASH. They spent N150m out of N150m budgeted. Abia State spent N665m while Delta spent N570m. We further reiterate that Ministry of Water Resources should be divorced from Lands so that attention may be given to this important sector”
My Bolton-Akpan who raised a red flag in the releases to the office of the Accountant General which stood the office out as the second highest spender in 2020 and first half of 2021 recommended that the trend should cease in 2022 and funds should be directed to key development sectors if development must be recorded in the State
He said “Analysis of the report for 2020 has revealed that the office of the Accountant General is the second highest spender in Akwa Ibom State on capital projects after Ministry of Works. This is worrisome considering the fact that this is not a project implementing agency yet it enjoys handsome amount of budget and releases with one of the highest percentages of performance (82.1) which is even higher than the percentage of budget performance of Health, Education and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) jointly as they all had 54 percent.
“It is interesting to note that the capital projects provided for implementation in this office are primarily administrative capital projects without direct benefits to the public. Again, despite the capital releases in 2020, this office had subvention of N235m released for maintenance of IPSAS Software, ICT Centre and Accrual IPSAS out of N240m budgeted which means that the office enjoyed 98 per cent release.
“It is important to note that among the States that have published their Audited Financial statements for year 2020 in Niger Delta, Akwa Ibom State stands alone as the only State that has released up to a whooping billion naira for capital projects in Accountant General’s Office. Curiously, it appears that this trend may not end soon. In the 1st half of 2021, this office still stands as the second highest spender in capital projects among MDAs as it has already disbursed N5.4bn out of N28.8bn budgeted for the year. This questionable trend needs to be reviewed in 2022.”
Policy Alert also highlighted discrepancies in State Government documents on the acquisition of loan in 2020 and 2021.
” While the Accountant General’s report enters that N4.6bn loan was obtained in 2020, Budget implementation report (Appraisal) which is published quarterly reported that the State Government acquired N7.8bn in 2020. The Budget Implementation Report notes that in second quarter of 2020, the State got N2.6bn, in third quarter, N2.7bn was procured, and fourth N2.5bn thus totaling N7.8bn. We hope this is no longer the printer’s error. Hence, it is important that the State comes clear on this disparity.
” Again, in the first half of 2021, the State has obtained N7.7bn internal loan. However, the Budget Implemention Report shows that the loan was obtained in 2nd quarter (April-June). Most part of this quarter, the House of Assembly was not operational because of strike action and the public are unaware of any legislative approval within this period. However, the only N7bn loan request from the Governor was in July which does not fall within this quarter. Does this suggest that the loan was acquired before authorization? The Government will need to clarify this”.