… Blames coding error for discrepancies
The Akwa Ibom State Government has stated that a recent investigative report alleging multi-billion naira fraud against the Akwa Ibom State Governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, the Secretary to the State Government, SSG, Engr Emmanuel Ekuwem and other officials based on a 2019 Annual General Report and Audited Financial Statement for the 2019 financial year released earlier in the year is false and faulty.
The State Commissioner for Economic Development & Ibom Deep Sea Port, Mr. Akan Okon, who stated this during an interactive session with journalists in Uyo on Wednesday, explained that an earlier audit report from the Auditor’s General’s office was found to have contained erroneous data inputs which were officially withdrawn via a circular dated September 2, 2020, to all Ministries, Agencies and Departments, MDA’s.
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According to Mr. Okon, the Akwa Ibom public accounting format adopts IPSAS protocol which entails the usage of a thorough coding method which must be accurate and cannot be falsified, insisting that it was impossible for the government to spend any money outside the approved sum the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly approved as was assented to by the state Governor.
Hear him, “Every money that was spent in that financial year was in line with the provisions of the budget. There was no extra-budgetary expenditure outside what was originally approved by the House of Assembly”.
It’s could be recalled that the earlier withdrawn 2019 audited financial report was the basis upon which two Uyo based journalists used as an official document to run a budget analysis of the 2019 financial year which gave the erroneous impression that the offices of the Akwa Ibom State Governor and the Secretary to the State Government made several questionable and extra-budgetary expenses in 2019, prompting the government to state the facts to clarify the misinformation.
The corrected version of the Annual Report of the Accountant General with audited financial statements for the year ended 31st December 2019, copies of which were distributed to journalists at the briefing shows contrary to claims by a section of the media that the government, through the office of the Secretary to the State Government, SSG, spent a whooping #4.864 billion on the purchase of 15 cars, the corrected version of the state’s 2019 audited financial report puts the actual cost of the 15 cars at a total cost of #738, 000,000.00, as was approved by the State House of Assembly and assented to by the Governor in the state’s 2019 budget.
In a related development, the new document reveals that the allegation that a whopping #5.04 billion was spent on the maintenance of the state aircraft, a Bombardier Global 5000, based on the faulty 2019 financial report earlier withdrawn is also false as the corrected version of the state’s financial statement shows only #2.5 billion was budgeted and spent for the same purpose for the financial year that ended December 31, 2019.
Similarly, contrary to insinuations that the Government House spent #2.7 billion on fuel and lubricants, the corrected version of the audited financial report also reveals that only #1.3 billion was budgeted and approved for the purpose. The original 2019 Annual Report of the State Accountant General also shows that only #800 million was spent on governor’s hospitality and traditional gifts, contrary that the #1.18 billion claim by a section of the media while Security Services gulped #12 billion and not #13.28 even as only #75million was spent in 2019 on Medical/Clinic equipment for the Government House Clinic and not #153 million the report erroneously claimed. The corrected version of the financial report also shows that tours and visits gulped only #20million and not #46.95 million that was reported.
Speaking to our reporters at the interactive session, the state Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Nsikan Linus Nkan, restated the government’s commitment to ensure transparency in governance. He said that Gov. Udom Emmanuel has done a good job in managing state resources, adding that there will always be transparency on issues of budget and expenditure.
The move by the state government to clarify the issue by stating the true position of things as contained in the corrected version of the report is seen by many as a testimony of the Governor’s commitment to transparency and accountability. Akwa Ibom State it could be recalled is one of the few states in the country whose annual audited financial report is always ready and presented to the public on time in keeping to the Governor’s policy of transparency and adoption of international best practices in governance. As further proof of the Governor’s commitment to transparency in the collection and utilization of public funds, Akwa Ibom is one of the few states whose budget is always posted on the state’s official website so as to ensure transparency, accessibility, and citizens participation in the budgeting process from the point of conceptualization, presentation, defense and assent with appropriate oversight to ensure it is implemented in line with the Fiscal Responsibility Act for the benefit of the people.
On his part, the State Commissioner for Information & Strategy, Comrade Ini Ememobong, noted that it was not out of place for a media investigation about the budget to be conducted, but hinted that an investigation based on a wrong report was bound to mislead the public and create confusion. He said that it was necessary for the issue to be addressed, adding that such is a criminal allegation and should not be taken lightly. He advised journalists to always clarify facts from his ministry so as to have the authentic and up-to-date information they need in order to carry out their constitutional duty professionally and efficiently.