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Rivers, Zamfara, Bayelsa, Imo fail FG’s transparency test

“Bayelsa, Imo, Rivers and Zamfara states got zero allocation due to their inability to meet the 2019 eligibility criteria...."

Rivers, Zamfara, Bayelsa and Imo states did not get a kobo from the N123.348 billion grant the federal government shared to states because they failed a transparency test, which seeks to encourage those in positions of authority to be accountable.

Sokoto got the highest grant of N6.6 billion because it led others in meeting the criteria for the grant while Kano got the least among the winners with a grant of N1.7 billion.

The remaining 30 states shared N115.2 billion based on their performance. It means each of them got more than N1.7bn.

“Bayelsa, Imo, Rivers and Zamfara states got zero allocation due to their inability to meet the 2019 eligibility criteria, which required states to publish online approved annual budgets and audited financial statements within a specific timeframe,” a statement from the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning said.

How winners, losers emerged

The federal government on Wednesday announced the disbursement of another round of performance-based grants to states totalling N123.348 billion ($324.6 million) under its States Fiscal Transparency Accountability and Sustainability (SFTAS) Programme for Results.

The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed, who disclosed this in the statement signed by Hassan Dodo, the ministry’s Director of Press and Public Relations on Wednesday in Abuja, explained that the disbursement followed the achievement of results by the states in the just concluded 2019 Annual Performance Assessment (APA).

The assessment was carried out by the Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation (OAuGF) as the Independent Verification Agent (IVA) and approved by the Programme Coordination Unit (PCU) of the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning.

According to Mrs Ahmed, the disbursement included N91.048 billion ($239.6 million) of performance-based grants for the 2019 APA results achieved by 32 eligible states across various Disbursement Linked Indicators (DLIs) covering fiscal transparency, accountability, expenditure efficiency, revenue mobilisation and debt sustainability.

The minister further noted that the 2019 APA results were a significant improvement on the 2018 APA results where the total performance-based grants of N43.416 billion ($120.6 million) were received by 24 eligible states, demonstrating the substantive progress states have made on fiscal reforms.

She disclosed that the second part of the disbursement involved a new COVID-19 response DLI: the implementation of a tax compliance relief programme for individual taxpayers and businesses by states by September 30, 2020, where 34 out of 36 states (only Anambra and Zamfara states missed out) were able to achieve the results for this new DLI for the total of N32.3 billion ($85 million) of grants.

The disbursement came after the recent one in November 2020 by the federal government where the sum of N66.5 billion ($175 million) was granted to 35 states, which achieved results under another new COVID-19 response DLI: the passing of an Amended COVID-19 Responsive 2020 Budget by July 31, 2020. 

N233 billion disbursed since April

The minister observed that since the first disbursement in April 2020, the federal government had thus far disbursed a total sum of N233 billion ($620.6 million) to the states under the US$750 million World Bank-Assisted States Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability (SFTAS) Programme-for-Results.

The finance minister reiterated that the World Bank-assisted SFTAS Programme was principally meant to strengthen fiscal management at the state level to ensure effective mobilisation and utilisation of financial resources to the benefit of their citizens.

She noted that the SFTAS programme could not have come at a better time, given the dwindling government revenue occasioned by oil price volatility and coupled with the current impact of COVID-19, which has further intensified the need for improved practices in fiscal transparency, accountability and sustainability as enunciated in the SFTAS ideals.

The minister said that with the disbursement of the total sum of N233.264 billion ($620.2 million) since the beginning of the Programme for Results, “we have thus far successfully adapted and implemented the SFTAS Programme to provide timely support to states to strengthen their fiscal capacity for responding to numerous fiscal challenges in their respective domains.”

“The increase in the number of benefitting states and results achieved is indicative of the wider acceptance of SFTAS ideals by all states of the federation and this would herald a new era of transparency and accountability in fiscal governance at the sub-national level,” the statement said.

When contacted, Oguwike Nwachuku, who is the Chief Press Secretary/Media Adviser to the Imo State governor, Hope Uzodimma, said the state government had nothing to say because the present administration was not in power then.

Efforts to get to Chibuike Onyeukwu, the spokesman of former Governor Emeka Ihedioha were not successful.

On his part, the Rivers State Commissioner for Finance, Mr Isaac Kamalu, asked our reporter to call him back much later because he was in a meeting.

The Special Adviser to Zamfara governor on Public Enlightenment, Media and Communication, Mallam Zailani Bappa, referred our correspondent to the Commissioner of Finance, Alhaji Rabiu Garba Gusau.

However, the commissioner could not be reached for comment as his phone number was not going through.

The Bayelsa State government did not respond to the development as the Commissioner for Information, Ayibina Duba, did not respond to calls nor reply a text message sent to him.

Our correspondent reports that because of the political developments in the state occasioned by litigations in courts, Governor Douye Diri presented the budget proposal to the state House of Assembly in March after his swearing on February 14.

Accountability and transparency

The Executive Director, Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED), Dr Ibrahim M. Zikirullahi, said that the organisation had always drawn the attention of authorities to “the financial recklessness, lack of accountability and opaqueness that has characterised the governance of states.”

According to him, it was not a surprise that some states had failed key tests on open governance and financial solvency.

“It is all a reflection of the ineffective governance that has been on offer in the states. Even the federal government, which is busy conducting the assessments, has neither fared better nor led by example.

“The way forward is for Nigerians to understand that everything rests on the leadership they elect.

“From LGA to states to federal levels, Nigeria urgently needs leaders who will show a commitment to prudent and accountable management of scarce public resources,” he said.

On his part, the leader of Moving Nigeria for the Better, Hassan Ismail Yusuf, said the government should adopt a carrot and stick approach.

“It is not enough not to give anything to states that failed woefully. The government should find a way of sanctioning them by denying them some privileges like federal projects until they change their attitude.

“Accountability is the key to responsive leadership. I believe some of the states would not mind if they didn’t get anything from the transparency bonus because they have other options of getting free money.

“A good example is Rivers State and you need to adopt another method to force them to do the right thing,” he said.

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