…Non compliance with budgeting rules
…Only state in South East not on International Public Sector Accounting Standard
…Budgeting officers untrained, lack
…Dubious financial procedures
It is no longer news that Imo State missed out from the N123.348 billion (about $324.6 million) performance grants to states under the Federal Government Fiscal Transparency Accountability and Sustainability (SFTAS) Programme for states. What is however news is that Imo missed the opportunity because of lack of transparency and accountability in governance.
Regrettably, it’s only Imo among the five South-East states that missed out in sharing the booty, which seeks to encourage those in positions of authority to be accountable to the people.
An investigation by News Echo, however discovered that a combination of non-compliance to budgetary procedures, poorly-trained and ill-motivated staff of the budgetary office, lackluster attitude of government to accountability in public expenditure accounted for the missed opportunity
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed, while announcing the disbursement of the grant, in which Sokoto state got the highest, said that Imo, alongside Bayelsa, Rivers and Zamfara states got zero allocation due to their inability to meet the 2019 eligibility criteria, which required states to publish online approved annual budgets and audited financial statements within a specific timeframe.
Look at the budget presented this year; it’s
nothing but a carton. From the appraisal done
from January to June, the state can only
realize N33 billion. This is for half a year, so if
you multiply it by two you have N66 billion or
more. But do you know the amount they
presented; N346 billion. So how can they
realize that amount? It’s simply a waste of
effort“It has no rationality because when you
put all these figures, there is no aspect of the
criteria that you get up to three per cent
budget performance. And any budget that did
not perform up to 50 per cent is a failure.
Somebody who sat for exam and has two per
cent; is it a pass mark? he asked rhetorically
Apart from the reasons adduced by the finance ministry, News Echo investigations revealed that since 2015, Imo state has defaulted in complying with the International Public Sector Accountability Standard (IPSAS). IPSAS aims to improve the quality of general purpose financial reporting by public sector entities, leading to better informed assessments of the resource allocation decisions made by governments, thereby increasing transparency and accountability.
It was also discovered that budgeting in Imo state since 2015 had never followed standard procedures as those who would ordinarily make inputs were bypassed.
Also staff of the budget office could not make meaningful input because many of them are poorly trained and ill-equipped to handle simple budgetary rules and procedures.
A high ranking staff of the Imo State ministry of budget and economic planning, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that Imo budget office lacked the capacity to deliver.
He said, “The truth is that Imo budget office lacked the capacity to deliver because of the politics that is going on in that office
“State governments right from Rochas Okorocha till now did and have not been doing the right thing. Ihedioha tried before he was removed from office.
“Gone are the days when budget is independently done. Budget now is being supervised by the Nigerian Governors Forum, Civil Society Organisations (NGO’s) and World Bank. There are criteria they set up and if you meet the criteria, you get the grant. There are what is called eligibility criteria and they are many and the essence is to ensure budget transparency and performance.
“Look at the budget presented this year; it’s nothing but a carton. From the appraisal done from January to June, the state can only realize N33 billion. This is for half a year, so if you multiply it by two you have N66 billion or more. But do you know the amount they presented; N346 billion. So how can they realize that amount? It’s simply a waste of effort
“It has no rationality because when you put all these figures, there is no aspect of the criteria that you get up to three per cent budget performance. And any budget that did not perform up to 50 per cent is a failure. Somebody who sat for exam and has two per cent; is it a pass mark? he asked rhetorically.
“If you check, other South East states, the highest is Enugu with about N68 billion, others got various sums and Imo state lost. And all these states are IPSAS compliant. They do their budgeting according to IPSAS and Imo state is still not there. The state government is not helping matters either.
“This year’s budget was meant to comply with IPSAS charter and Imo did not comply. So how can you expect to get the money? Even the ordinary stakeholders who were supposed to participate in the budgeting process were excluded. There is supposed to be inputs from grassroots to decide what would be in the budget, but it was not there. The civil society organizations (CSOs) should ordinarily go to the grassroots to collect charter of demands which should be included in the budget, but there was nothing like that.
“So when criteria assessments were done and you scored zero, you get nothing.
The officer said that staff of the budget office had been suffering in silence because funds meant to collect data for budgetary purposes were diverted by political heads, adding that so also were funds meant to engage professionals in the budgeting process.
He said that there were attempts to comply with the IPSAS procedure during the Goodluck Jonathan presidency, but it was made impossible by the Imo state government.
He said, “During the Jonathan presidency, it was made mandatory that any state that was not IPSAS compliant in terms of budgeting and accounting will not be admitted to the federation allocation committee. Imo did panic consultancy, but when Jonathan left, President Muhammadu Buhari did not follow it up and Imo backed out. Imo is the only state in the South East that is not IPSAS compliant; Ebonyi, Anambra, Abia and Enugu are there.
In a reaction, an executive director of one the non-governmental organizations (NGO) in the state and a leading official of the CSOs, who chose to speak under anonymity, have maintained that the government is in default in many respects. He specifically knocked the government for excluding the CSOs as part of the processes.
According to her, “our group is supposed to act as checks and providing necessary inputs but we don’t know what they do there. If you check you can see that the government is not even releasing money to implement the budget.”
But the Commissioner for Budget and Economic Planning, Dr. C C Osuala, denied all the allegations. He described the report as inaccurate, insisting that Imo state did not miss out. He did not however say how much Imo got.
Media Adviser/Chief Press Secretary to Governor Hope Uzodimma, Oguwike Nwachuku, said that Uzodimma was not in government when the assessment was made.
He said, “Ordinarily I should not be commenting on what happened in Imo State when we were not in office. But the so called report is one out of the many ways the past administrations undermined the people and the system due to their deficit or lack of understanding of governance processes. But I make bold to say that if what is in issue is budgetary accountability and transparency, we have long done the needful because Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo State knows the rules and we have already started reaping the gains.”