Speaker of the Akwa Ibom state House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Onofiok Luke, has faulted claims by certain opposition elements that the state government has “not brought to the notice of Akwa Ibom people” its financial statements.
He said government has made public its financial statements, citing the report of the state Accountant General with Financial Statements for the year ended 31st December 2015 as an instance.
He made the remarks Monday while flagging off the consideration of the 2016 report of the Auditor General by the Public Accounts Committee of the Akwa Ibom state House of Assembly.
“Questions have been asked about the accounts of the state. While I am not speaking on behalf of the executive, I would like to speak on behalf of the state legislature which vetted the 2015 account of the state and, based on what we found, unanimously made further approvals. Over the weekend, I saw a publication wherein claims were made about monies that the state government had received from 2015 to 2017 and what those monies have been used for.
“The report of the Accountant General with Financial Statements for the year ended 31st December 2015 is a reply to that document. When we conclude with this exercise, and by the time we come out with our own vetted version for 2016, we are going to have the document equally published for the 2016 account.
This document contains what the government did with the monies that government received in the year 2015 and we are here to consider what government did with the money that was appropriated for the 2016 fiscal year.
“By the time we get to 2018, we will equally come to consider the account of 2017 and we are going to get it published. The content of the Accountant General Financial Statement answers to the query about our finances.
I speak because we gave our stamp of authority to the audit report and that is why it is published. It was published in national dailies. Also, the publication of the audited account of the state was one of the conditions for the state to access the budget support fund of the federal government. The content of this document include the auditor general’s certificate.
“We have statement of accounting policies, and we have a ten-year financial summary from 2006 to 2015. We have cash flow statement for 2015; we have statement of asset and liabilities of the state government 2015, and we have statement of consolidated revenue fund for the year 2015. We equally have statement of capital development fund for the year 2015. This is a public document and it answers to every query about what funds were being used for.”
Making references to section 125 sub 1 of the 1999 constitution, the state audit law, and the house standing order to emphasise the roles of the house of assembly and the procedures for state account auditing, Speaker Luke said he went through the legal frameworks “for us to know that all the procedures in considering the audited account of the state have been followed which is why we are here to do this consideration flag-off.”
He noted that the report of the auditor general on the account of the state is a major plank for public education on our state’s expenditure.
“We ensure in the 6th assembly that whatsoever we do, we get the people carried along under our legislative civic engagement policy so that the people might know what we are doing with their mandates and to show that our activities are not shrouded in secrecy. We run a transparent legislature policy.”
He said the flag-off was going to enable the public to “come and hear us and follow the processes and procedures which we are following to arrive at the conclusion that is going to be transparent, open, and in the best interest of Akwa Ibom people.”
While urging members of the state executive council to explain to whoever raises questions on state finances, the speaker said it is based on the financial statement of the state that the house will appropriate monies for the next fiscal year.
“We have made it known here at the house of assembly that there is no way we will consider any budget under the 6th assembly without looking at the financial statement of the previous year.
We thank God that government has deemed it fit to give us this financial statement which we are very ready to give urgent assessment because we know that any time from now, the governor might come in to present the 2018 budget. The basis for us to consider that budget will be the financial statement of 2016.”
He urged the citizenry to take advantage of the yearly budget defence exercise to educate themselves on the details of previous year’s budget performances.
“If the people do not have immediate access to a commissioner or a head of department explaining the budget, they can come here during budget defence to ask questions concerning monies that we appropriated to each ministry and agencies of government for the fiscal year 2017. The people have enough opportunity to educate themselves on what is being done with the finances of the state.”
Also speaking, Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, Rt. Hon. Friday Iwok said “the statutory function of the accounts committee is to consider and review the report of the Auditor General as it affects the accounts of the state and local governments on a regular basis and particularly at the end of each fiscal year.”
He said that as part of the committee’s oversight function, it visited the offices of the State Auditor General, Accountant General, and Auditor General of Local Government.
“It is worthy of note that we were satisfied with the activities of the offices visited”, Hon. Iwok said.
Present on the occasion of the flag-off also was the state Finance Commissioner, Mr Linus Nkan.
The finance commissioner commended the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly “for showing what it takes to drive good governance to the people.”
He said the action of the House of Assembly has given great confidence to Akwa Ibom people.
He said the state government pays serious premium to stewardship and accountability.
Also speaking, the state Auditor General, Dr Monday Akpan thanked the House “for contributing immensely in a very special way to ensure good governance in Akwa Ibom State.”
“You have also demonstrated a very high level of professionalism in this house.”
The state Auditor General for Local Government, Mr Francis Okon noted that the innovation by the public account “goes to show the importance that this honorable house attaches to issues of accountability.
Present at the flag-off were house members including the Deputy Speaker, Princess Felicia Bassey; Chief Whip, Hon. Emmanuel Ekpenyong; Hon. Effiong Bassey, Hon. Idongesit Ituen, Hon. Otobong Akpan, Hon. Mark Esset, Hon. Uduak Ududoh, Hon. Monday Eyo, Hon. Samuel Ufuo, Hon. Idongesit Ntekpere, Hon. Otobong Ndem and Clerk of the House, Mrs Mandu Umoren.
Also present were the state Accountant General, Uwem Andrew Essien; Chairman, Civil Service Commission, Mr Sunny Akpadiagha; Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Elder Patrick Albert; Permanent Secretary Ministry of Information and Strategy, Pastor Praise Okon; Permanent Secretary Ministry of Finance, Mrs Emette Imuk; and members of boards and commissions in the state.