Cross River 2024 Appropriation Law Faces Scrutiny as BTAN raises concerns

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…Budget Transparency and Accountability Initiative Raises Concerns

 

Calabar –The Cross River State 2024 Budget, labeled the “People First Budget,” has come under scrutiny as the Budget Transparency and Accountability Initiative Nigeria (BTAN) presented its observations and concerns during the recently held 2024 Budget Stakeholders’ Forum at the Cross River State House of Assembly NEGROIDHAVEN has garnered.

Though on 26th October 2023, the Governor had proposed a budget size of N250 billion with N154 billion as capital expenditure and N96 billion for recurrent expenditure, the Assembly jerked it up by N46 billion to N296 billion which was assented on 29th December 2023. The budget allocates 61.6% to the capital budget and 38.4% to the recurrent budget. Notably, the Governor’s adherence to Section 18(1) of the State’s Public Finance Management Law and the online accessibility of the 2024 Budget received commendation from the civil society organisation for transparency.

BTAN has made twelve preliminary observations about the 2024 appropriation law as assented to by Gov Otu. According to her, the 2024 budget presents issues of duplication, incomplete description of line items, and zero capital budget allocation to some key MDAs. She further noted that the Fiscal Responsibility Commission, established by a law passed in 2011, is not appropriated for in the 2024 budget, continuing a trend from 2023 and 2022. Again, physical cash transactions by MDAs persist, contributing to revenue leakages within the system.

In the area of agriculture which constitute a major plank in the 2023 guber campaign manifesto of Gov Bassey, the Department of Cocoa Development does not generate any revenue. While BTAN observed that revenue from the Women Development Centre has increased but could be further enhanced through rents and leases, it drew attention to the fact that the budget for the Internal Revenue Service includes a provision for “Purchase of 5 hp pavilion laptops at N14,250,000.00,” prompting the need for clarification on the cost.

The State Agency for the Control of AIDS (SACA) has been categorized under the Administration Sector, contrary to its previous placement in the health sector. The health budget’s percentage share to the total budget for 2024 is about 10%, falling short of the WHO recommended allocation of 15%. Nevertheless, the education budget’s percentage share is 18%, an improvement from the 2023 budget but still below the UNESCO recommended allocation of 26%. The reduction in the total number of ministries from 39 to 31 aligns with the state’s quest for fiscal responsibility.

Finally, the BTAN emphasized the importance of addressing these concerns to ensure effective public service delivery through mutual accountability and transparency. The stakeholders’ forum serves as a platform for dialogue and collaboration between the government and civil society to enhance the state’s fiscal ecosystem.

Aware of dwindling revenue inflow, while assenting to the appropriation law, the Governor noted that, “I am optimistic about our ability to finance the budget with creative funding options. We hope to surpass our revenue targets, therefore, revenue-generating agencies, and indeed all MDAs must ensure prompt and full remittances of collected revenues.”

Highlights of the budget include; economic sector – N104, 986, 870, 898.59 billion; general administration – N95, 815, 641, 732.54 billion; law and justice – N7, 947, 139, 687.33 billion; regional sector – N1, 262, 390, 126.52 billion, and social sector – N86, 973, 489, 533.02 billion.