|Gov Ben Ayade of Cross River State
Editorial|18 December 2019
Cross River State Governor Ben Ayade’s appropriation bill recently presented to the 9th Cross River State House of Assembly, tagged ‘Budget of Olympotic Meristemasis’ and pegged at 1.1trillion Naira has thrown up a lot of issues which calls for attention no matter how we chose to throw the face the other way.
While in a recent editorial NEGROIDHAVEN had highlighted some questions seeking answers, in this piece our news outfit will be taking a look at an all important component in the procedure of the preparation of that 2020 economic blueprint. This procedure has to do with the impending constitution of the state cabinet in relation to the appropriation bill.
We all know that Cross is River is yet to constitute her state cabinet, however the 2020 budget is already enjoying the attention of the state legislature. Put differently, the state cabinet which will soon be inaugurated (grapevine sources say Thursday 19th December) did not have the privilege of taking a look at the appropriation bill before it was forwarded to the state legislature.
It is standard practice for the preparation of an appropriation law that the cabinet whether state, federal or as the case may be should consent to the bill before the head of the cabinet (here His Excellency the Executive Governor) officially communicates same to the legislative arm of government.
There is a reason why the CEO of the state is referred to as the Governor-in-Council, it is because the state cabinet is referred to as the State Executive Council (EXCO). Lexically, a Council is a group of people who are selected to make rules, laws, or decisions about something. They also provide advice or guidance on something. This rendition suggests that the State EXCO nay Cabinet have policy-making abilities, exercise advisory powers and even have some kind of legislative privileges.
Given this background, the question then becomes: who advised His Excellency the Executive Governor of Cross River State to evolve a N1. 1 trillion budget for the year 2020 (this is not a faulting of the decision, this is rather a keen scrutiny of the actual decision making process)? Which cabinet sat over that bogus economic proposal? Did the Governor arrive at that decision as Governor-in-Council or as what —the usual solo star glittering in professorial gaity?
Let’s preempt the naysayers who would say the Permanent Secretaries the administrative heads of the various ministries played a cardinal role in the preparation of the policy document. The question is are they empowered by law to execute it? Again, another quick reaction will be the governor should have appointed them to the role of Commissioners.
This news outfit is foreseeing an administrative dilemma —a situation where Commissioners members of the State Executive Council SEC will superintend over a budget they did not contribute anything in preparing —they did not even see it beforehand, whereas the Permanent Secretary who actually did will be at bay?
Or, as His Excellency has already suggested, will the budget of Olympotic Meristemasis be executed spiritually through a third force? This brings us to the scientificity of an appropriation law, that is the Medium Term Expenditure Framework MTEF.
The suggested solution to avoiding the anticipated executive quagmire is by making available a MTEF. The argument here is that since the MTEF according to the law also looks out for a Fiscal Strategy Paper, an expenditure and revenue framework, aggregate tax expenditure floor for the state for each financial year in the next three financial years, and whereas the MTEF’s Fiscal Strategy Paper (a component of the MTEF) contains the financial objectives, the policies of the State Government for the medium term relating to taxation, recurrent (non-debt) expenditure, debt expenditure, capital expenditure, borrowings and other liabilities, lending and investment, as well as the strategic economic, social and developmental priorities of the State Government for the next three financial years, the Commissioners studying this document will avail themselves with the requisite background with which to implement the N1. 1 trillion budget.
Even though there was no MTEF for 2020 to 2022 which would have circumscribed the appropriation bill, it’s better late than never to still prepare a MTEF to take care of part of 2020, all of 2021 and 2022.