By Emma Ujah, Abuja Bureau Chief
The 36 state governments and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, will soon access a World Bank’s $750 million facility. The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, disclosed this while addressing the 7th meeting of the Community of Practice (CoP) made up of State Commissioners for Budget and Planning, in Abuja ,yesterday.
She said that fiscal responsibility of the states was a prerequisite for accessing the World Bank facility.
According to her, “The meetings had the benefit of hosting the World Bank and the Governors’ Forum. During the course of this exercise, the Ministry of Finance had to, on instruction from the President, provide bailouts to the states because at one point, states were not able to pay salaries.
“Part of the conditions that was given for those bailouts is a fiscal responsibility plan which needed to be implemented for the state to continue to be qualified to access the funds that the Federal Government was giving.
“This FSP was quite successful because as a result of that we saw improvements in the public financial management in a lot of states, some of which is evident in the increase in the IGR and also the increase in the frequency of the preparation of financial statement in the availability of budget that had never been found anywhere.
“This year, it was so good that the World Bank said this group has done well and therefore we are going to give $750million in the form of concession loans and grant which will be available soon for the states to access.
“We are in the process of going to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to get the approval; the World Bank on its own has already approved this and others. So we hope that you will continue to implement your fiscal responsibility so that you will qualify for this facility as well as the grant.
“And those principles agreed by NEC are still as relevant today as they were in 2016. So I want to urge the CoP to ensure that the monitoring aspect of this is still continuing in one way or the other.”
She also charged the CoP to make monitoring of the process of implementation of budget as cardinal, because it would benefit and enhance what they are doing to improve the standard of living of the people in their states.
“Let me add that the need for monitoring is beneficial because it will enhance process improvement, it will also help us to refocus ourselves as well as our principles to stay on those commitments that are made, but most importantly it will enhance public service delivery to the citizens”, she stated.
The Community of Practice meetings were designed to enhance the performance of State Commissioners for Budget and Planning and serve as platforms for facilitating peer learning, information exchange, strengthening coordination, collaboration and networking.
Issues being discussed at the 7th CoP meeting include expanding the forum beyond the current membership to include the Minister of Finance and Commissioners of Finance from States for better coordination of planning, budget and public finances.