Speaker of the Akwa Ibom state House of Assembly, Barr Onofiok Luke, has said that the incomes of the state government are not only public knowledge but are visible in the multiple capital projects spread across the state by the current administration.
At a rally by members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Nsit Ubium on Tuesday, Speaker Luke reiterated his earlier position that Governor Udom Emmanuel has judiciously put the state’s resources into several developmental projects contrary to recent uninformed and unwarranted claims by some opposition elements in the state.
Speaker Luke said on Tuesday that it was false and misleading the claims credited this weekend to a certain stalwart of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) that the state government has not brought to the notice of Akwa Ibom people its financial statements. He said the publication of the state’s audited account was one of the conditions upon which the state assembly made subsequent approvals to the state executive, noting that same publication was the condition for the state to access the budget support fund of the federal government.
He said he was speaking as the head of the state legislature, the clearing house of government, whose duty it has been to approve the state’s yearly budget.
The Speaker said: “They (opposition) asked us where our monies are. Yesterday I showed them the documents of the financial statement of Akwa Ibom state to show where our monies are. These documents were not only specially printed and made available for public information, the statements were published in the dailies. Evidently, our monies are in the roads that are being constructed across the state. Our monies are in the hospitals that are being equipped and maintained all over the state. Our monies are in the educational institutions that are being provided with learning materials. Our monies are in the markets and in the stalls we’ve built for our people. Our monies have been used judiciously for women and youth empowerment. We have documents to answer to those questions”.
On Monday, while flagging off the maiden sitting of the House of Assembly Public Accounts Committee to consider the state Auditor General’s 2016 report on the accounts of the state government, the speaker had faulted the mischievous claims of unpublished financial statements.
“The report of the Accountant General with Financial Statements for the year ended 31st December 2015 is a reply to the claim of unpublished financial statement. 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 this 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 to government for the year 2016”, he said.
The speaker said that while he was not speaking on behalf of the state executive, he considered it pertinent 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.”
“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 the findings. 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 accounts 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 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 financials, 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 nowhere 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. 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.”
He commended Governor Udom Emmanuel for his prudence and for ensuring that the administration remains open, transparent and accountable to the people of the state in line with the governor’s campaign promise.