By Ibraheem Solaudeen.
The Brain Builders International (BBI), a non-governmental organization charged with the mandate of ensuring public transparency and accountability in governance in Kwara State, has responded to a rejoinder issued by the state government, through the Office of the Press Secretary, Ministry of Finance and Planning, over some “grey areas” highlighted by the NGO with regard to the state’s 2020 budget.
A statement issued on Friday by the BBI, which was signed by its Executive Director, Mr Olasupo Abideen read:
“We received a rejoinder to our report on the 2020 Kwara State budget through the Office of the Press Secretary, Ministry of Finance and Planning, Kwara State. We appreciate the government for their response to our report and wish to respond to some of the claims and rebuttals made in the rejoinder.
“Foremost, we would like to correct the wrong notion that our effort at analyzing the budget estimates was an attempt to castigate or scandalize the State Government for whatever reason. Again, we reiterate that our report was aimed at deepening democracy and demanding transparency and accountability from the government, as this is part of the objectives of our organization.
“Having made this pertinent clarification, we proceed to react to each of the claims made by the State government in its rejoinder.
“In the rejoinder, the State government claimed that the amount budgeted for purchase of vehicles for office holders is N655m as against the N1.2b mentioned in our report. This is false and we believe the government was only being economical with the truth.
“A cursory check will reveal that allocation for the purchase of motor vehicles and buses for the State Assembly was pegged at N522m and N204m respectively. While under the budget for Governor’s Office, N150m was budgeted for the purchase of motor vehicles, N555m for vans, and another N50m for buses. When this is summed up, you have: N1.481bn, which is even above N1.2b.
“The State government also claimed that the N1.6b allocated for the State Assembly is to cater for expenses on House committee assignments, oversight functions and payment of salaries and allowances of members and staff of the Assembly, some of whom are civil servants who are under the payroll of the State government.
“And surprisingly, under the same House of Assembly budget, there is another allocation of N95.6m tagged as Personnel Cost for staff of the Assembly. Can the State government and the Assembly explain to us the difference between the personnel cost and payment of salaries of staff of the Assembly?
“It is worthy to note that the State government recently approved N2.1b for the renovation of 31 schools across the State. How wonderful would it have been if a part of the huge budgetary allocation to the Assembly could be channeled towards the renovation of additional schools in the State.
“On our concern about the huge funds allocated to fuelling of Government House vehicles and generators, below is the exact response of the government: “While the administration understands the need to be modest, it is convinced that budgeting for 620,689 litres of petrol and 45,454 litres of diesel (both adding up to N190m) to power government vehicles, plants and generators for a whole year is within the bound of decency anywhere in this country.”
“How did the State government arrive at this calculation and conclusion? The government official(s) who did the calculation has/have only exposed their poor knowledge of Mathematics or could it be an attempt by the government to cover up its flaw. As at today, a litre of petrol is sold for N145 while a litre of diesel goes for N240.
“Therefore 640,689 litres of petrol at the rate of N145 is N89, 999, 905. 45, 454 litres of diesel at the rate of N240 is N10, 908, 960. If you add N89,999,905 and N10,908,960, we have N100,908,865. Where did the government put the other 90Million? It should also be noted that another N60m was budgeted for maintenance of plants and generator.
“In line 0140001 of the budget, the sum of N22.5m and another N168m, totaling N190.5m was budgeted for the State Audit Department. Considering the huge amount already budgeted for the State Audit Department, one is left to wonder the need for allocation of another N360m for external auditing. That means by the end of the year, Kwara would have expended over half a billion naira on auditing.
“We strongly believe that the rejoinder raises more questions than providing answers to the inconsistencies raised in our report. For instance, the explanation of the government on the N200m budgetary provision for Harmony Holdings isn’t convincing enough. Why should the government recapitalize the Holdings that is being run as a private business entity and where the government is just a shareholder?
“Also, the N4.5bn allocated to KWIRS for financial consulting appears obscure. It is imperative that the government state what it means by financial consulting. Is it to hire consultants or prepare annual financial statement of account? We hope that the government sheds more light on this with a robust and fact based response on the questions asked.
“Our Opinion on the Ecological and Stabilisation fund was based on perceived government’s over ambitiousness in Capital receipt. Taking into consideration the request of other states and trends of benefits from the account by Kwara State in recent times, it is unlikely we get the fund this time. Recall that Kwara got in 2016, 2017 and 2018 while many states are still struggling to access it.
“Alternatively, we could have encouraged our National Assembly members to lobby those ecological financed intending projects into the FG capital projects for clear feasibility. Note that stabilization and ecological fund formed part of the capital receipt and most time, it constitutes the greater risk for the less performance of the budget.
“In our report, we also raised concern about the N250m allocation for ‘honorarium and sitting allowance’ in the budget. We demanded to know what the allocation is meant for and who the beneficiaries are. We are glad that the government has clarified that the fund is to pay severance package of past government officials as provided for by the law. But why lumping the allocation for the severance package under honorarium and sitting allowance when you could have tagged it what it is ‘Severance Package’ for ex-government officials.
“We are as well shocked to notice that a huge 200Million was budgeted for Maintenance of Office Building and Residential Quarters. This is outrageous.
“We also observed that the government failed to react to our observation on the discrepancy on the amount that has been saved by the present administration as disclosed by Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq. The governor initially said his government had saved the sum of N7bn which was included in the budget proposal.
“However, during the Kwara Development Trackers programme, the Governor said the figure was N8bn. But the figure we have in the approved budget is N7b. What happened to the N1b difference? Or was the Assembly not informed of this development by the Governor?”