BY MARK ITSIBOR, Abuja |
The federal government yesterday said it has disbursed the sum of N66.5 billion ($175 million) to eligible states of the federation on the basis of the amended COVID-19 Responsive 2020 budget results achievement.
Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Hajiya Zainab Ahmed, who disclosed this in a statement issued by the ministry’s director of Press, Mr Hassan Dodo, in Abuja, explained that the disbursement followed compliance with the amended COVID-19 Responsive 2020 Budget by 35 eligible states in the country.
The programme is wholly financed with a loan amount of $750million from the International Development Association (IDA), a member of the World Bank Group.
Each State received the total sum of N1.9billion equivalent of $5million.
According to the minister, the disbursement is under the performance-based grant component of the World Bank-assisted States Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability (SFTAS) programme-for-results.
Rivers State is the only one that missed out on the grant due to what the federal government described as its inability to meet the eligibility criteria which required the state to have passed and published online on a state’s website by July 31,2020 credible, fiscally responsible COVID-19 responsive amended 2020 budgets duly approved by the State House of Assembly and assented to by the state governor.
According to Ahmed, the amended 2020 state budget must also include standardised budget documentation to enhance clarity, transparency and accessibility.
The statement reads in part: “It must also significantly lower the gross statutory revenue projections – consistent with the revised medium-term expenditure framework (MTEF) and federal government’s budget; reduced non-essential overhead and capital expenditures”.
“The budget must be tagged and found to have allocated at least 10 percent of the total expenditure of the amended budget for COVID-19 relief, restructuring and recovery programs; and identified credible sources to fully finance the budget deficit to avoid accumulation of arrears”.
Hajiya Ahmed stressed that the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated economic and fiscal shocks have put significant pressure on States’ fiscal resources and undermined the reality and credibility of the States’ original 2020 Annual Budgets.
She noted that a transparent, accountable and sustainable state-level fiscal/budget framework is a pre-requisite for a robust COVID-19 response, enabling necessary health, social protection and livelihood interventions during the COVID-19 relief, restructuring and recovery phases.
The minister expressed optimism that the achievement of results by the 35 out of 36 states would further strengthen the national fiscal response to COVID-19 and align efforts at both the federal and state-levels.
She noted that the World Bank-assisted SFTAS Programme is principally meant to strengthen fiscal management at the state level, so as to ensure effective mobilisation and utilisation of financial resources to the benefit of the citizens in a transparent, accountable and sustainable manner, thereby reducing fiscal risks and encouraging a common set of fiscal behaviours.
Ahmed observed that the SFTAS programme could not have come at a better time, given the dwindling government revenue occasioned by oil price volatility coupled with the current impact of COVID-19 which has further intensified the need for improved practices in fiscal transparency, accountability and sustainability as enunciated in the SFTAS ideals.
It would be recalled that the federal government had earlier in April, 2020 disbursed the total sum of N43, 416,000,000 billion ($120.6 million) to the qualified 24 States, based on their performance under the same programme.