…Insists AKHA Must Subject Budget to Public Scrutiny
By Ekemini Simon
Policy Alert, a non-governmental organization promoting economic and ecological justice in the Niger Delta, has raised concerns over the dire implications looming for Akwa Ibom State if the 2022 supplementary budget is allowed to fly.
Policy Alert said it is disturbing that recurrent items in the supplementary budget constitute 91.1% of the estimates as opposed to capital items which make up just 8.9 percent. The organisation also noted that it gives cause for concern that just eight weeks into the 2022 fiscal year, the Akwa Ibom State government is already requesting a N45 billion Supplementary Appropriation.
It could be recalled that the Executive arm of the Akwa Ibom State government had recently sent to the legislature a supplementary appropriation bill of N45 billion to augment the initial N586.88 billion, which will bring the total revised budget to N631.38 billion if approved by the Akwa Ibom state House of Assembly.
In the proposed supplementary budget, N41 billion is slated for recurrent expenditure while N4 billion is designated for capital spending.
Policy Alert’s position which was contained in a release, signed by the organisation’s Programme Officer, Fiscal Reforms and Anti-Corruption, Faith Paulinus, said If the proposal goes through, the revised recurrent budget of the State will now stand at N302 billion, almost at par with capital expenditure, and with dire implications for development.
The statement questioned why lawmakers who promoted the bill at plenary on Thursday, March 3, 2022 only spoke about the capital projects billed to be executed with the supplementary budget without a mention of what the bloated recurrent proposals are meant for.
The organization particularly decried the haste with which the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly is considering the supplementary appropriation request, saying, “The haste by the legislators to get this done makes the entire process highly suspicious. By asking the House Committee on Appropriation and Finance to report back to the House within 24 hours after the second reading, the leadership of the Assembly has indicated that it may not be interested in taking citizens’ inputs into account in the consideration of the controversial supplementary budget.”
Policy Alert called on the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly to allow sufficient time for thorough legislative scrutiny of the controversial supplementary appropriation bill and to subject the proposal to a public hearing in line with the traditional procedure of the legislature on bills and the principle of fiscal transparency and accountability.
The statement added “It would be an injustice and a slap on the collective intelligence of Akwa Ibom people to allow this supplementary budget to pass without giving citizens an opportunity to weigh the proposals against their actual priorities.
“We call on the legislature to resist the temptation of being rushed to accept the supplementary proposals hook, line and sinker. They must learn to feel the pulse of the citizens and prioritize the overriding public interest over partisan loyalties and electoral concerns. They should prudently examine the provisions line by line against extant fiscal data.”