Counting from the date the Auditor-General appended his signature to the Accountant General report, the 90 days elapsed on August 29, 2021.

Nwogbia also said he is ignorant of loans acquired by the state government outside of the approved limit by the House of Assembly.

“On the acquisition of loan, I do not know that until I call my people working on that. There are Directors and Departmental Heads working on that. When they report to me, I will note it. Maybe I will draw their attention if there are such things.”

 

Extra-budgetary disbursement, and discretionary loan acquisition is breach of procurement laws – Expert 


A Professor of Monetary Economics, Public Finance and Development Economics at the Federal University of Uyo, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, Prof Emmanuel Onwioduokit, said that the executive does not have powers to spend above what is approved for in the budget.

“By the laws of the land, you are not supposed to spend any amount of money without appropriation. To engage in extra-budgetary spending or loan procurement is a criminal offense by the constitution. We also have Fiscal Responsibility Act which criminalizes this.

“If the executive wants to spend more, or have needs to obtain loan above what was approved, they have to go to the House of Assembly and make a requisition for a supplemental budget and get their approval before they can spend more or get more money. You do not just spend public money at will or put the people in more debt without their approval through their representatives at the parliament”.

“To check such spending, most States have domesticated the Fiscal Responsibility Act. So, the Fiscal Responsibility Act and the Constitution which is superior is already in place. Therefore, it is important to enforce the law.”

In the same vein, Public and Private Development Centre (PPDC), a civil society organisation working on procurement and promotion of citizens’ participation in governance process, has called on Abia State citizens to get involved in interrogating the public financial management systems of their state.

In an interview with this newspaper, the Chief Executive Officer of PPDC, Nkemdilim Ilo said: “Getting involved means advocating for open access to publicly held financial information, leveraging published data to ask questions, monitor public projects and hold state and private actors accountable for every public expenditure incurred. The same kind of accountability we expect from the federal government should also be sought at the state level.

“While extra-budgetary spending is a contravention of fiscal responsibility laws, unfortunately this is no longer shocking information. The absence of institutionalized transparency and accountability mechanisms at the subnational level have been a subject of deliberation for longer than I can count.

“Nevertheless, given the recent drive for fiscal transparency and sustainability reforms at the subnational level, it means more work needs to be done by a host of stakeholders, non-state actors and investigative journalists, in pushing for accountable and responsible budgeting and public procurement.

“Furthermore, it is heartbreaking to see the low percentage of allocation to critical sectors necessary for the development of any state. One key lesson from 2020 was the importance of strong infrastructure and personnel driven health sector. Covid 19 laid bare the absence of basic health infrastructure available to citizens and the humbling effect of avoidable death when the border was closed to both the rich and the poor.”

Ilo recommends a strategic approach to be undertaken to build up critical sectors such as health, education and agriculture through a budgetary system that promotes growth.

* This investigation is supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting *