Abia Q3 expenditure: Separating facts from fiction



By Ogbonnaya Ikokwu

On assumption of office, the Abia State Governor, Dr Alex Chioma Otti, promised to run an open and transparent government aimed at cutting the cost of governance. To achieve the set goal, the governor equally announced that he will prefer a slim government in relation to the number of political appointees that would work with him.

Otti also vowed that his administration would use the state resources to rebuild the state infrastructure, which were in a state of extreme dilapidation in the past 24 years.

The governor equally launched a new digital tax system that would help the state to eliminate fraud and intermediaries in the revenue generation.

On September 1, the state migrated
to the Treasury Single Account (TSA). The implication is that all monies accruing to the state would be paid into a single account. Likewise, all payments by the state government would be made through the same account.

With the TSA in place, all the channels for double taxation and payments have been successfully eliminated.

In keeping to its promise of transparency, the state government penultimate week published her Q3 budget report (July to September) showing the state earnings and expenditure for the period under review.

It is pertinent to point out that the State Government had prioritised the payment of salaries, pensions, waste management, road construction, education and health given the amount expended on those sectors.

The above policy trust of the Labour Party-led government in Abia, which is a departure from the norm in the state, may not have gone down well with members of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party in the state, which had continued to criticise the amount of money spent on feeding and welfare packages, under the office of the governor.

On November 20, the social media was awash with a misleading report that the State Government spent N927,000,000
feeding and welfare for the governor’s Office.

Many who read the story’s headline without asking for explanation might have jumped into conclusion that the state government is reckless in its expenditure. But the truth remains that the figure published was mischievous.

A statement jointly signed by the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr Kazie Uko, and the Special Adviser to the Governor on Media and Publicity, Mr Ferdinand Ekeoma, has explained that the amount spent by the state government for refreshments and meals for the period under review was a mere N223,389,889.84.

The statement pointed out that the
figure above is as captured in all the Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government and covers the expenditure
for the entire state for the subhead and not for the office of the governor, as being erroneously portrayed by the report.

It added that the quoted figure covered expenses for special events, such as retreats, conferences and related events.

The statement read: “For welfare, the Abia State Government has so far spent the sum of N397,520,734.84. The Welfare expenditure is in line with the State Fiscal, Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability Programme; an initiative of the Federal Government.

“Also NOTE that the welfare expenditure covers all the Ministries, Departments and Agencies and not just the Governor’s Office, as wrongly alleged.

“Expenses under Welfare deal with issues of health, rehabilitation and public emergencies”.

It is obvious that Gov. Otti has set up machineries that are intended to eliminate fraud and intermediaries in the state’s revenue generation and expenditure through the TSA and slim government appointees, which is already saving cost for the government.

In the coming days, residents of the state will benefit from the decision of the LP government as it would use more of the state earnings to invest in infrastructure and in the ease of doing business being championed by the government.

The governor had always maintained that the era of sharing money to people in the name of political stakeholders had gone, insisting that people must work to earn a living.

Abia youths must rise up and take advantage of the huge investment the state is making in the digital economy rather than making themselves a tool for political manipulations and fake news.

#A new Abia is possible

Ogbonnaya Ikokwu, a journalist and public affairs analyst, writes from Umuahia.