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A’Ibom 2021 Supplementary Budget: Prioritize Citizen’s Interest, Not Partisan Loyalty- Policy Alert Tells Assembly

A’Ibom 2021 Supplementary Budget: Prioritize Citizen’s Interest, Not Partisan Loyalty- Policy Alert Tells Assembly

… Calls for immediate publication of supplementary budget proposals online

Policy Alert, a non-governmental organization working on fiscal and ecological justice in the Niger Delta, has called on the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly to utilize what it describes as a pro-poor lens to critically interrogate the proposed 2021 supplementary budget recently submitted to it by the executive.

The organization made the call today, Wednesday following a confirmation that the Executive arm of government had earlier sent a supplementary budget of N136.5 billion to augment the initial 456.3 billion budget.

The release signed by the organization’s Programme Officer, Fiscal Reforms and Anti-Corruption, Faith Paulinus, stated: “We are seriously concerned that the state government has proceeded with plans for a 2021 supplementary appropriation in the third quarter of the year and despite headwinds from volatile oil prices and the Covid19 pandemic which should suggest otherwise.

“While there is nothing fundamentally wrong with supplementary budgeting, we are of the opinion that any further spending approvals for government should be informed by revenue and capital expenditure performance in previous quarters and should be carefully designed to address priority projects that meet the needs of the poorest citizens. It is for this reason that we urge the legislature to resist the temptation of being rushed to accept the supplementary proposals hook, line and sinker.”

The release further noted that in the last six quarters, priority sectors for citizens such as education, health, agriculture, and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) have not received priority attention compared to some non-priority areas that received huge capital budget releases.

“In 2020, only agriculture out of these sectors saw substantial capital budget performance, with 46.5 percent implementation compared to 28 percent in 2019. Budget performance for education stood at 26.2 percent while health had 27.8 percent performance. The WASH sector had zero release despite having a paltry budget of N228 million.

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“This is in stark contrast with the huge releases made to the office of the Accountant General which was the second highest capital spender in 2020 and the first half of 2021. It also contrasts with huge releases in 2020 and first half of 2021 to the Ministry of Special Duties which implements a number of controversial big-ticket projects with little impact on everyday citizens.”

The release urged the 7th Assembly to ensure that the supplementary budget is subjected to public scrutiny as has been the norm of the legislature over the years to give citizens an opportunity to weigh the proposals against the actual priorities of citizens.

“Lawmakers should prioritize the overriding public interest over partisan loyalties. They should carefully examine the provisions line by line against extant fiscal data to ensure they meet the needs and priorities of the citizenry. We also call on both the Akwa Ibom State Budget office and the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly to immediately publish details of the supplementary budget proposals online to enhance citizens engagement and to instill further confidence in fiscal decision making of the state government.”

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