Tijah Bolton-Akpan, the NGO’s head of programme who led the group’s team on the visit to the speaker of the state assembly said that the Federal Government’s Fiscal Sustainability Plan for states, if adhered has the potential to lift states out of their current fiscal challenges and called on the assembly to give expedited attention to the Public Procurement and Fiscal Responsibility Bills which according to him will soon be sent by the State Governor to the assembly for consideration.
The group also commended the assembly on the practice of holding public hearings on the appropriation bill but urged that it should ensure that the legislative consultations on the 2017 budget is devolved to the constituency level.
In his response, the Speaker, Onofiok Luke expressed his commitment to ensuring that the legislative engagement on the 2017 budget of the state is marked by increased transparency, accountability and citizens’ participation. He reassured citizens of the state that the house would not relent in its oversight function over the spending of the Budget Support facility.
The Speaker informed the group that the house was already working with the State Budget Office and the Executive Council chambers to ensure seamless transmission of future executive budget proposals in a format that can be more useful to citizens.
Luke noted that Akwa Ibom State is already way ahead of several others in budgeting best practices, such as the online availability of the state budget and the adoption of the International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) which has made the budget a less difficult document for interested members of the public to analyse.
He commended Policy Alert for the group’s vigilance in monitoring fiscal governance processes in the state and urged the group to remain consistent in its engagement, while expressing the readiness of the House to engage with other civil society groups towards improving governance and development of the state.
He however used the opportunity to call on the federal government to pay up the state’s outstanding earnings from the thirteen percent derivation for the last two months, as this would go a long way towards addressing the current fiscal challenges of the state.