Dear Honourable Members,
WITHER THE MTEF 2020 to 2022?
Compliments of the season.
On Thursday 21st November 2019 the Executive Governor of Cross River State made a presentation of the 2020 appropriation bill to the 9th Cross River State House of Assembly CRSHA. He tagged it Budget of Olympotic Meristemasis and pegged it at 1.1trillion Naira.
During the course of the presentation, His Excellency Governor Ben Ayade said that the decision to allocate 82.8% of the budget to capital expenditure, was indicative of 'our aggressive commitment that will continue to reduce recurrent expenditure and focus on capital expenditure.' On the sectoral breakdown as captured by the appropriation bill, Ayade disclosed that the health sector will gulp N44 billion, education N38 billion, new city development N35 billion while agriculture will get N22 billion and social housing to gulp N12 billion, among others. I must confess that this is commendable.
Lofty as these economic blueprints are Sirs/Madams, the question that irresistibly rapes my mind and that of others is: against what scientific standard are these gargantuan projections made? Without mincing words, this question invokes the notion of Medium Term Expenditure Framework MTEF rendered by experts to be the: 'annual, rolling three year-expenditure planning. It sets out the medium-term expenditure priorities and hard budget constraints against which sector plans can be developed and refined. MTEF also contains outcome criteria for the purpose of performance monitoring. MTEF together with the annual Budget Framework Paper provides the basis for annual budget planning' (GRIPS Development Forum).
Honourable Members, it will be recalled that Section 11(3)a of the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007 as domesticated in the state in 2011 by Gov Liyel Imoke, reads that the medium-term expenditure framework 'shall contain: a. A Macro-Economic Framework setting out the macro-economic projections, for the next three financial years, the underlying assumptions for those projections and an evaluation and analysis of the macroeconomic projections for
the preceding three financial years'. This 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 the MTEF anticipates to cover.
But more importantly Sirs/Madams, all these about the framework (MTEF) are expected to be so laid before the legislature here the 9th State House of Assembly for their consideration and approval with such modifications, if any, as the Assembly may find appropriate through a resolution.
Guardian Newspapers report of 26 October 2019 quoted the Director General of the Budget Office in the state, Mr Abeng Onoh thus: 'Cross River State uses State Integrated Financial Management Information System rather than Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) being used by the Federal Government and other states'. This is revealing Honourable Members. Whereas, a 13th January 2017 publication by PremiumTimes reads thus: 'We are giving the state governor 30 days to give us his medium term expenditure framework.' This was the 8th Cross River State House of Assembly under John Gaul Lebo as Speaker to the Executive Governor of the state, Ben Ayade.
The question becomes, when and why did Cross River chose an accounting application aimed at entrenching the MTEF over the MTEF itself? Secondly, if the Gov Imoke administration domesticated the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007 in 2011 as it were, when did the Assembly set that law aside or by what Executive Council resolution was that law set aside? Thirdly, let's presume that the Executive Council gave the Assembly in 2017 a MTEF, wouldn't it have expired by 2019? If yes, why is there no new MTEF for 2020 to 2022? Fourthly, was it an oversight on the part of the incumbent 9th CRSHA not to request from the governor a MTEF, a framework within which the 2020, 2021 and 2022 budget will be appraised? If yes, how could the Rt. Honourable Speaker who was the Chair House Committee on Finance and Appropriation forget such important procedure? How could the administrative staff especially the Clerk of the Assembly allow such? Fifthly, If there was no MTEF, against what macro-economic projections, assumptions, and priorities was the 2020 Budget of Olympotic Meristemasis pegged at 1.1trillion Naira prepared?
Finally and whereas the 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, and whereas this MTEF was supposed to have been laid before the CRSHA, how will the 25-member state legislature appraise the 2020 appropriation bill for consent? Against what financial objectives, policies of government and priorities will they peruse through the appropriation bill?
Sirs and madams, Honourable Members of the Assembly, Wither the Medium Term Expenditure Framework MTEF for Cross River State for the years 2020 to 2022?
Thursday 11th December 2019