Saturday, 9 May 2020

C'River Finance Comm speaks up, says state to get world bank grant in June

Asuquo Ekpenyong Jr.

Ukorebi Esien | 9th May, 2020 

As the social media space of Cross River state last night went agog with a news story published by Premium times where Cross River state was listed amongst 12 states in Nigeria that failed to benefit from The World Bank State Fiscal, Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability (SFTAS) Program, many Cross Riverians raged with anger towards what the term "incompetence" of the state's commissioner of finance, Mr. Asuquo Ekpenyong Jr. whose office is directly affected.

This led to open name calling and running down of the government of Sen. Prof. Ben Ayade who has been accused of appointing stooges and neophytes in his government. 

In what seems like a swift response, a close associate of the commissioner, one Charles Ekanem responded to the situation by giving vivid analysis of what transpired last year with regards to the World Bank State Fiscal, Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability (SFTAS) Program. 

Ekanem's post reads; 

I have seen several write ups as to the state not benefitting from the World Bank SFTAS Grant, let me state Categorically, this is an ABSOLUTE LIE and a sponsored smear campaign and knowing the Commissioner for Finance won't respond to online detractors, I decided to do some due diligence and obtain the facts.

The World Bank State Fiscal, Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability (SFTAS) Program is a 3 year program from 2019 - 2022. States may qualify over the 3 years and can earn grants on achievement of 9 Disbursement Linked Indicators. What this means is that what you did not earn in the first year, you can earn in the second or third year if you qualify.

Cross River State is part of the Second year program and is earning the same grant this July 2020 (3 months from now) that some other states earned last month.

Why did Cross River State not qualify for the first batch of releases? 

There are 2 eligibility criteria to qualify to be part of the program. Online Publishing of assented Budget and online publishing of the audited financial accounts by a certain cut date. After a state is eligible, it must then meet 9 specific Indicators with grant prices attached.Cross River State, in 2019 did not meet the Cut off date for publishing online the 2018 Audited Financial Accounts. This is  the direct responsibility of the accountant general, audited by the Auditor General and passed by the State House of Assembly. 

Important to note, the Commissioner for Finance was not Commissioner for Finance for over 6 months in 2019. However, since starting work 4 months ago, weekly meetings have been chaired by the commissioner and with coordinated hard work, Cross River State has qualified for the second round of releases. It will earn the same grant and the state has not missed out on any Grant.

People attempting to score cheap political points should look elsewhere, the commissioner is a seasoned technocrat and I had the good fortune of knowing him at the University of Calabar when he was only just 25 years old and was already teaching Financial Management and Entrepreneurship Development among other courses at the Faculty of Management Sciences. He always stood out as I thought it odd that Some of his students were older than him. 

Certainly Cross River State will receive its grant inflows in 3 months time as it has met the eligibility criteria and most of the Disbursement linked indicators were implemented by the Commissioner as far back as 2016 on his own initiative, these are Biometrics Verification of Payroll, Treasury Single Account, Review of Revenue Laws etc.

Independent investigation by TDN reveals that the above script by Charles Ekanem has the approval of the Honorable Commissioner Thus our publication