Following a recent media report alleging an extra budgetary expenditure by the Akwa Ibom State Government in the 2019 fiscal year, the government has cleared the air on the report, citing a case of media investigation based on an erroneous version of the state Accountant General’s Audit Report.
In an interactive forum with journalists in Uyo, the Commissioner for Economic Development & Ibom Deep Sea Port, Mr. Akan Okon, explained that an earlier audit report from the Auditor General‘s office, was found to contain erroneous data inputs which was later withdrawn for correction in September 2020, adding that the circulated media report was based on the erroneous version of the audit.
Citing a government internal memo of September 2, 2020, Mr Okon, pointed out that the Akwa Ibom public account report which adopts IPSAS protocol, is made to follow a thorough coding method which must be accurate, cannot be falsified. He insisted that it was not possible for any expenditure to be made outside the approved sum by the state legislature.
“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”, he said.
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.
Ememobong who read the content of the government Internal Memo of September 2, 2020, to journalists at the interaction, acknowledged the inputting of the purchase of 15 units of vehicles in the audited report, but pointed that following human error, data were wrongly entered and upon discovery, the Accountant General sought to withdraw the report for due corrections.
In his words, “there was a Prado expenditure, but it was erroneously inputed and the Accountant General on 2nd September sent a memo, acknowledging a coding error and demanded a retrieval of the old report, for proper inputing according to IPSAS protocol”
According to a report in The Mail Newspaper of Tuesday November 17, 2020, the sum of N4.864 Billion was spent through the office of the Secretary to the State Government, for the purchase of 15 units of vehicles as against N738 million budgeted for. This, the Information Commissioner said was based on the erroneous version of the audit which he noted probably slipped out. In effect, copies of the updated audit report were distributed to journalists.
He further appreciated the role of the media in governance and assured that government will not antagonise the media, but rather made a case for development reportage and good partnership between government and the media community in the state.
The state Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Nsikan Linus Nkan, who also addressed the issue, 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 Akwa Ibom State Council chairman of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Comrade Amos Etuk, in his response, appreciated the Akwa Ibom State Government for their effort to clear the air on the issue. He however stated that government should not see journalists as enemies, but as strategic partners in achieving good governance.
“Let it be on record that the media in Akwa Ibom State will continue to be very active. The media will continue to be the conscience of the society. Government should not see us as enemies, but see us as strategic partners in the Akwa Ibom project”, he said.
The Akwa Ibom State annual financial report is an audited report of the state’s annual budget, compiled by the State Accountant General and is done in line with the protocol of International Public Sector Accounting Standard (IPSAS).