By Bernard Tolanidada Dada Uyo
A group of civil society organizations under the aegis of the Open Budget Platform has commended the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly on the recent passage of the state’s Fiscal Responsibility Bill into law.
The commendation was made during a thank you visit by representatives of the group to the lead sponsor of the Bill and Chairman, House Committee on Economic Development, Rt. Hon (Elder) Udo Kerian Akpan, last week.
Speaking on behalf of the group, Ken Henshaw, Acting Executive Director of Port Harcourt based non-governmental organization Social Action, noted: “Akwa Ibom State remains the only state in the South-South region without a Fiscal Responsibility law.
The passage of this bill is therefore an important step towards putting rules in place to guide public expenditure and promote long-term fiscal sustainability in the state.”
Tijah Bolton-Akpan, Head of Programmes of Policy Alert, another member of the Platform, said: “We are indeed excited that our advocacy effort is yielding fruit. The law is also coming at an opportune time because the state is currently suffering fiscal shocks due to substantially reduced oil revenue.
“We have studied the Bill and are confident that, barring a few provisions that need strengthening, the proposed law has what it takes to institutionalize transparency and accountability in governance in the state. It provides for citizens’ participation in fiscal governance, makes guidelines for public expenditure management and revenue forecasting, and places strict limits on debt accumulation by the state government.”
Bolton-Akpan added: “Successive administrations to date had failed to push this Bill from the executive end. We are therefore particularly excited that the legislature had to stand in the gap and present it as a Private Member Bill.
The passage of this bill into law demonstrates that the Sixth Assembly is being proactive in the business of lawmaking and remains commitment to transparency and accountability in governance. It is our hope that the governor will accord this legislation the seriousness it deserves by signing it into law without delay. We also hope that a complementary legislation to regulate Public Procurement will be enacted soon.”
The Committee Chairman thanked the Platform for its role in strengthening fiscal governance in the state while acknowledging the role of civil society groups in the work of the Committee on the Bill.
“We call on groups like yours to work hard at ensuring that the fiscal responsibility law receives quick executive accent and is also implemented effectively. Right now, we are working to see that the Public Procurement Bill comes out too and we’re inviting those of you in civil society to work with us to ensure that we get a Bill that will stand the test of time” he said
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