Controversies Over 2016 Budget Document Presented By Ayade | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Controversies Over 2016 Budget Document Presented By Ayade

Posted: Nov 16, 2015 at 12:49 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

Last month being October 2015, Cross River State Governor, Senator Ben Ayade endeavoured to keep to an established tradition in the state where by the budget for the next year is presented before end of October of the current year. Our correspondent Nsa Gill, looks at the controversies that has trail the presentation;, the budget size and the suspicion that the detailed budget break down document laid on the floor of the legislature may have been that of 2015 instead as the supposed 2016 document is still being submitted by various MDAs.
On Monday October 26th 2015, Senator, Professor Ben Ayade, the Governor of Cross River State presented the state’s 2016 Budget Estimate to the state House of Assembly.
The information about the presentation was impromptu to some legislators as it was even more shocking to some permanent secretaries and heads of MDAs in the state.
MDAs were still putting finishing touches to their inputs and most of them just needed a release of their monthly impreast to be able to submit the input to the appropriate authorities. But in what is yet to be comprehended, the Governor had a document tagged “Budget of Deep Vision and he presented same before the legislature.
The presentation itself was uncharacteristic of the usual budget presentation as the governor went straight into the 2016 Budget estimate. He did not bug his audience with the customary review of the current year’s budget performance.
As the Special Adviser to the governor on Budget and Planning, Hon. Moses Onor puts it, “the Governor was hurrying to meet up with a planned overseas trip”.
“In a quest to develop the state, we have tried to ensure that the public expenditure structure that prioritizes a higher capital budget over recurrent is maintained,” the governor stated as he presents the budget.
He announced a total budget size of N350.billion, adding that the “Economic sector is to be allocated N179,727,830,404.00 representing 51.41%, Social Services: N53,009,294,029.00 representing 15.21%; Regional Development will take N53, 443,575,772.00, representing 15.31%, while General Administration will gulf N63,219,299,785.00 representing 18.1%. The 2016 budget is thus structured on deliberate principle of capital/recurrent budget ratio of 84%: 16 %.”
When the governor mentioned the budget size, there was an expression of astonishment among members of the legislature who know what they have had to go through because of paucity of funds in the state; at least in the last two to three years.
For instance, in 2014 the state governor then, Liyel Imoke had to apply for a downward review from the initial N180, 145,763,224.46 budget size to N173, 746,154,608.15. few months to the end of year. In 2015 which is in the current, another review from N149. 442B to N127.85B was affected. So, is the practice going to repeat itself in this new administration where a downward review will be solicited towards the end of the year? Analysts asked.
Apart from the budget size and the worries over where the money will come from, the most disturbing aspect was what the governor laid on the floor of the House as the symbolic laying of the detailed breakdown document of the budget. Controversies and queries have continued that the detailed breakdown of the budget was not ready at the time of the presentation and what the governor laid before the House was the detailed breakdown document of 2015 instead.
Efforts to get the truth from the official source within the Assembly have not been easy. Responding to our inquiry, the House Committee Chairman on Budget and Finance, Hon. Eteng Williams denied knowledge of what the governor actually laid before the House. He promised to find out and get back to our reporter. When he did not 24 hours after, he has also not responding to all telephone calls put across to him.
Eteng had however explained earlier that the document is yet to be handed over to his committee “so I do not have a copy. The House will have to take the first reading of the Bill, share a copy each to all members and after taking the second reading, it will be committed to my committee”.
Three weeks after the presentation nothing has been done in the legislature on it except an interface with the Special Adviser on Budget who is still receiving input from MDAs.”
Some reliable sources in the state legislature who did not want to be quoted revealed that the governor did what is rather unbelievable by simply laying before the house a budget document that is different from what he hurriedly presented as 2016 budget estimate of the state.
The Special Adviser to the Governor on Budget and Planning, Hon. Moses Onor in defense of the governor’s budget presentation turned out to reveal and confirm some suspicion over the matter. According to him, “What happened was that the Governor said he wants to go for a journey, so he said he was not prepared to stay and read the whole thing. And I told him if you don’t read it (the 2015 review), people will think that we have not done a good job, he said he was short of time. I have a copy which is the full copy of what he was to read. I have been a World Bank desk officer for some time, so how can I do a budget without a review. So many people called me to complain of the presentation without a review and I said how can.”
On the input from MDAs, Moses said “the problem was that before now it has been the general MDAs coming but we only invited specific people from the budget department of all those MDAs, and said to them go and stay with your people and know the feelings of your people, use the budget man in that ministry and bring it to us. Their (MDAs) various budget PRS came to us and everything we did was based on what the PRS gave us. But unfortunately when I met with the governor and said these thing even though some people  didn’t come, some permanent secretaries are saying that their Budget people did that thing with the accountant and whatever; they permanent secretaries didn’t give any input, in fact three permanent secretaries came to me and said that thing they have submitted, they are not part of it, and I said why won’t you be part of it, the thing is from your office, then the man started explaining some things and I really pitied him. So when I met with the governor and said we have already written this thing, now that this thing is before the house of assembly I have no more powers to correct it again, he said okay since some people are complaining, let it not be that the governor is rigid, me and the chairman house committee on finance and budget can inter play and before the thing comes out in the open” Moses disclosed.  Adding, “you can see me meeting with the man from the Assembly, so we had a meeting and I said, this is the situation, I can invite few of those MDAs that complained and we sit down and said change this or that. In that way the people who are saying we did not carry them along will feel different and have a sense of belonging.”  
Speaking further the governor’s Special Adviser said, “to be sincere, if everything were to be captured, it would have been more than that figure. The governor is even magnanimous; there is Foreign Direct Investment FDI that is coming in and the money is even more than what is being put down, we didn’t just want to go so high and higher, so the N350B is an average figure that we had to put down.  For instance, Dangota has already keyed in, both in the Deep seaport project and the road project, so many others have keyed in. I tell you and I can assure you that the Super Highway project will be executed.  Our governor will do that road and the Deep sea port.  He will put Doubting Thomases wrong.
So Dangota and Foreign Direct Investment are keyed into the budget and that is why the size is like that. If the governor wants to put everything down, the budget size will be more than that. Let me assure you that the 260KM road and the Deep Seaport will be brought to reality by this our dear governor.  Those doubting will be put to shame.”
He maintained, saying, “I will say that our governor is too intelligent and he is not a man who was picked from the bush, this is a man who has gone international and he knows everything about due process.  I don’t think he will be thought what to do, I am not in a position to answer that because I am not in Due Process office.  
What we are trying to do in the revenue section, will beef up the revenue and block many leakages. There is so many leakages in the system and the government is bent on stopping the leakages. How can agencies be printing receipts of their own and things like that.  We had a meeting of TSA policy adoption and those are some of the issues that came up.  So if all things are put on ground, we will realize our projections of the figures. We are optimistic that we will make the figures and you know by World Bank standard the budget percentage should be at least 85% near the actual. And that is what we have followed.”
A concern indigene of the state Ifere Paul, who has been expressing worries over the situation went on his face book page and wrote, “It is normal practice that MDA’s usually present a fiscal budget to the governor. Subsequently, the governor will call for budget defense. At the defense, Commissioners and Directors will breakdown their budgets to the governor which usually reflects proposed projects expenses and timelines. The governor will appraise by either subtracting or adding. The overall contributions of MDA’s budgets, often makes the bulk of the budget presentation by governors to the State Houses of Assembly.’
‘My investigation whether MDA’s contributed to Ayade’s budget reveal that not a single Permanent Secretary, or Directors of various Departments, and Agencies in CRS were contacted for inputs into the “deep vision budget”. How deep is the vision of the budget when key issues from MDA’s have not been incorporated into the budget? How deep is the vision budget when no one knows how much the newly created ministries will gulp the State? Perhaps the whole vision is built on fraud. And that was why the governor was unable to present a budget breakdown. And why was there the need to rush the budget when after a few days before the budget presentation HE had already reviewed the 2015 budget? Perhaps budget experts can explain more.”
Ifere Paul in further reaction seven days after the governor had presented the budget said, “for a more transparent budget, MDA’s and NGO’s are required to contribute their inputs. Ayade is as I’m writing this comment, asking for a budget from MDA’s today 3/11/2015. This is sad.” another respondent, Columbus Effiong added, “if it’s today (3/11/2015) Mr. Governor is asking for the MDA’s budgets, then what did Mr. governor present to the CRSHA as his “deep Vision whatever…”
“Whenever those of us in the Diaspora after seeing, hearing and being part of the development that occasion other state in Nigeria come to hear about the insensitivity of our government in CRS, it always baffles our imagination. Please can someone put this administration in CRS in ORDER, so that it will do the needful?”
How the ongoing efforts in putting up the actual breakdown of the budget will end up with tallied figures as projected by the governor is what is left to be seen?
The State House of Assembly should live up to the expectations of the people who voted them into office by checking the governor to do the right things. Already governor Ayade has elicited interests and much expectation among the citizenry with his many laudable projects, all of which are yet to take off.  
For instance, the governor pledged to construct a completely new road which is a alternation route linking the southern part of the state where the capital is situated to the Northern part of the state which is also a direct link to the northern part of the country. The road, a 260Km six lanes superhighway as the governor promised has already been flagged-off in a ceremony performed by Nigeria’s President Mohammadu Buhari but work is yet to commence in actual. The road and the deep seaport also promised by the governor are expected to gulp no less than N700billion.
He also announced his intension to create more ministries including that for Oil and Gas which he will personally oversee as commissioner. He is creating 12 more ministries in addition to the existing 16 to have a total of 28 ministries in the state. He has nominated and the House has confirmed 28 commissioners waiting his swearing in.
It is expected that the period of honey moon for the new administration should be over by now, six months after and it is time all hands get on desk to achieve mutual benefit for the people who freely voted the governor.