The Evangelist News edition, April 14, 2023. By Aniefiok Udonquak
The Akwa Ibom State government has pledged its commitment towards accountability and fiscal transparency as well as the participation of people in budget processes and in the formulation of economic policies in the state.
It also promised the participation of the people in the formulation of economic policies to engender rapid development.
Emem Almond Bob, the commissioner for economic development, stated this during the stakeholders meeting on the 2023 ‘citizens budget’, adding that the state government would continue to work towards improving the wellbeing of the people with good economic policies.
Bob, who commended the World Bank for its support to the state government through the just-ended four-year State Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability (SEFTAS) programme, said it assisted in “strengthening the public financial systems including the fiscal operations in the state”.
Read also: Roads and agriculture in Akwa Ibom: Takeaways from the inter-ministerial briefing (Part 1)
According to him, “the experiences we have gained from SEFTAS are mind-blowing and have aided in so many ways including achievement of public accountability, openness and increased participation of people in governance”.
Bob said the essence of the budget meeting was to interact with relevant stakeholders as well as garner inputs, harmonise the various interest towards the production and publication of the 2023 citizens’ budget and expressed optimism that the aim of the event will be achieved
Similarly, the commissioner for finance, Nsikan Nkan said the meeting was to ensure inclusiveness, effective participation of citizens in governance and the appraisal of the budget processes ahead of the inauguration of the new administration in the state.
The director of economic planning, ministry of economic development, Inieke Umanah while presenting a lecture on budgeting processes in a representative democracy, decried that elected representatives from the grassroots such as councillors and local government chairmen do not engage their constituents in budget preparations thereby causing “significant underrepresentation of their people in governance.”
Responding on behalf of the civil society organisations, the executive director, Policy Alert, Tijah Bolton Akpan, commended the state government for its commitment to fiscal transparency and accountability and called for prompt publication of the budget on the government’s website for easy access by the citizens and timely quarterly reports on the budgets.
He appealed for the developmental needs and interests of the rural dwellers to be accorded priority in subsequent budgetary preparations in order to promote inclusiveness and give the people a sense of belonging.
Groups such as the Elders Forum, people living with disabilities, and others made their contributions during the meeting which drew participants from traditional institutions, faith-based organisations, women and youth groups, among others.