The N150bn Akwa Ibom State Government Supplementary Budget passed last September by the State House of Assembly has attracted mixed reactions from a transparency and accountability group in the State.
The supplementary budget, which brings the total revised budget of the State to over N850bn for 2023 fiscal year, was passed in addition to over N700bn earlier approved by the State lawmakers.
Details of the Supplementary Budget included about N50.3bn appropriated for recurrent expenditure, while N99.69bn was for Capital projects.
However, Policy Alert, a Civil Society organisation focused on promoting fiscal transparency and ecological justice in the Niger Delta region, on Monday highlighted some controversial appropriations identified in the approved supplementary Appropriation.
In a statement sent to this newspaper, Policy Alert’s Programme Officer in charge of Fiscal Reforms and Anti-Corruption, Faith Paulinus, said an analysis of the supplementary budget revealed that the bulk of the projects included in the supplementary budget under capital expenditure were projects already inaugurated by the past administration.
The Group said some of the projects already inaugurated which received supplementary Appropriation, included a budget item for N1bn for the dualisation of a 19.8km Ikot Oku Ikono Junction-Etinan Road with flyover at Ikot Oku Ikono; N500m for the Construction Etinan-Ndon Eyo road; N1.2bn for Eket-Etinan road; NIbn for Uyo-Ikot Ekpene road, and N6.5bn for the construction of the International Terminal Building at the Victor Attah International Airport, Uyo.
“The provision of a supplementary budget for these projects after they had been clearly inaugurated by the previous administration raises a red flag and demands immediate answers,” the group stated.
“It is also disturbing that the Government of Akwa Ibom State prioritised the provision of furniture for new State House members and purchase of utility vehicles in the supplementary budget, whereas the allocation for these items in the original budget were already sufficient and far above comparable rates,” the group added.
Also, it noted that in the supplementary budget, the purchase of 90 SUVs for the Office of the Secretary to the State Government (SSG) had N2.8bn supplementary budget totaling about N5.55bn in the revised budget, while another N1.2bn was budgeted in supplementary Appropriation for the purchase of 90 pick-up trucks for the same office, bringing to a total of about N2.6bn in the revised budget for the year.
Policy Alert said the State Assembly also had a provision in the supplementary budget of about N200m for Assembly Complex Landscaping; N750m for the supply of file cabinets for the Assembly, and about N200m for office furniture, wondering why these items were needed supplementation having already been appropriated for in recent times.
“While there is nothing wrong with having a supplementary budget, the amount and the target areas on this particular supplementary budget leaves a lot of unanswered questions.
“Akwa Ibom’s total revenue stood at N388.5bn as of the third quarter of 2023. This raises doubt that the State will be able to raise the N850bn revenue it has projected in its revised budget. The N150bn supplementary budget will, therefore, adversely affect the budget credibility of the State.”
Regardless, Policy Alert said it commended the State Government for making a supplementary budget of N6bn for the implementation of erosion control projects across the State; N30bn for the provision of palliatives to cushion the effect of fuel subsidy removal, and N500m each for the construction of outfall drainage system at Atiku Abubakar Way; construction of Outfall Drainage along Urua Ekpa Road, and construction of StormWater Control Facilities at Iquita Village, Oron.
The group also commended the State Government for the N300m supplementary budget for the construction of the 3.6km Mbikpong-Ikot Akpaedu Road in Ibesikpo Asutan, noting that citizens had repeatedly called on government to give attention to the project.