…Over Inability To Respond To Queries
By Aniefiok Christopher
The Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly Committee on Finance and Appropriation has suspended budgetary appraisals of three major ministries in Akwa Ibom State following their inability to respond to queries bothering on expenditures of approved figures in the 2022 fiscal year.
The Committee, headed by Hon. Uduak Odudoh had while considering the 2023 budget estimates for various MDAs, declared inconclusive, the presentations from the Ministry of Works; that of Health and Finance due to their inability to give satisfactory explanations for releases made in 2022.
The Committee Chairman had wielded its stick on the Permanent Secretary, the Ministry of Finance, for failing to tell the Committee how much the Ministry has so far received as refunds for 13% derivation to the State.
The Permanent Secretary who stood in for the Commissioner of Finance, Mr. Linus Nkan, was declared incompetent to address the house when he said he was not in a position to answer the questions posed to him by members of the Committee. The situation was further confounded when the St e Commissioner for Health, Prof. Augustine Umoh appeared before the Committee for the 2022 budget appraisal and presentation of estimates, for the 2023 fiscal year.
The Committee members including, Hon. Effiong Bassey, Deputy Chairman of the House Committee, Hon. Mark Esset, Hon. Godwin Ekpo and others were shocked to realize that over a hundred million was expended for the training of public servants, including lawmakers.
While denying knowledge or participation in such a program, the Committee members threatened to give the Ministry zero allocation for further training they produce names of lawmakers or their aides, who were trained on the use of Life Support Machines.
There were lots of discrepancies in the budget performance of the Ministry when compared to the activities on the ground, particularly an item indicating that repairs were carried out in Nsit Atai and Orue-Offong/Oruko Local Government Areas. “I want to know the repairs that were carried out in that hospital because that’s my village” Hon. Mark Esset had queried. According to him, the item in the Ministry’s budget indicates that the projects were ongoing, whereas nothing like that was actual.
The Committee members also raised concern concerns about the generalization of items in the budget, which according to them, does not give room for accountability, disclosure, and Claire, a variety of projects that are meant to be carried out.
Even though, the Commissioner had later on apologized for some of the lapses noticed in the budget, Hon. Effiong Bassey who stood in for the Chairman of the Committee ruled the Ministry’s budget be suspended for another date to iron out the grey areas.
The worst hit during the 2022 budget appraisal was the Ministry of Works with lots of issues associated with uncompleted, abandoned and non,e existing projects as revealed by the lawmakers while appraising the Ministry’s performance in the 2022 fiscal year.
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Engr. John, It has been a tough day tackling the puzzles put to him on projects he had no direct answer to, except to admit that the projects will be completed pending the release of funds, before the end of the present administration. Hon. Godwin Ekpo decried the marginalization of Ibiono Ibom Local Government Area which stated has been cheated in the sharing formula of project distributions in the State. He queried why an area like Ibiono Ibom, which, according to him had given the present administration the highest number of votes has only an uncompleted 1.5km road. Prince Idongesit Ntekpere said the road has been abandoned with no hope of completion within the lifespan of the present administration.
After a lot of fire with no positive responses, the lawmakers unanimously agreed the Ministry’s budget be suspended pending when answers are atta to the questions raised. Other MDAs so far cleared by the House Committee is that is Agriculture with a proposed budget of 14.1bn Naira, Akwa Ibom State Waste Management and Environmental Agency with a proposed sum of 499m Naira and Ministry of Special Duties, and Ibom Deepseaport with a proposed sum of 40.9bn for the 2023 fiscal year.
The Ministry of Information and Communications with 5.07bn, the Ministry of Special Duties and Ibom Deep Seaport with the proposed sum of 40.9bn, and Center the or Alternative Dispute Resolution were also cleared during the budget appraisal which had commenced on Monday.