Tuesday, 12 May 2020

I am not interested in 2023 discussions for now, allow me do my work, Asuquo Ekpenyong speaks


The Cross River State
Commissioner of Finance, Asuquo Ekpenyong Jr. who has been criticised by the media in recent times over the alleged inability of the state to access a World Bank Assisted grant has send a warning note to critics and the press to allow him focus on his current job and stop the distractions of 2023.

Ekpenyong made this known in a recent media parley held in his office in Calabar while responding to an accusation of abandoning his work as Cross River State Commissioner of Finance and concentrating on a perceived 2023 gubernatorial ambition.

The visibly nonplused Ekpenyong called on pressmen and Cross Riverians alike to allow him do the work on his table as there's already so much work to be done than start thinking or discussing about 2023 "I am not interested about 2023 discussions for now, Please let this be clear, if you can allow me to do the work on my table I will be glad to do and I will be happy that I have added my contribution to the Cross River State Government and thereafter go back to my private sector practice." Ekpenyong said.

Ekpeyong added that 2023 will take care of itself as he will be ready and happy to return to his private business after his services as Head of the finance cluster in state are over.

The commissioner who has been adjudged to be one of the youngest commissioners in Nigeria used the opportunity to clay some gray areas as regards accusations that his carelessness and incompetence had cost the state a $3 million world bank assisted grants. 

According to the Finance boss, the state hasn't lost out of The State Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability Programme which deals with the fiscal activities and responsibilities of the State Government and looks to provide incentives to states so as to meet their fiscal goals.

Ekpenyong informed that SIFTAS is a 3-year program designed by the World Bank to provide incentives to states to meet their financial goals.

Furthermore, Hon. Ekpenyong stated that by the third quarter of this year, Cross River State will be assessed by the Independent Verification Agent of the World Bank, to authenticate the level of transparency of the state, stressing this will enable the state access the grants.

He also explained that for any state to benefit from the program, the are key Disbursement Linked Indicators (DLIs) that must be achieved, explaining that these DLIs are; revenue loss, online publication of Accented budget of the state, sanity of the budget, improvement on revenue generation, implementation of the Biometrics Payroll System (BPS) using the BVN, implementation of the Treasury Single Accounts (TSA), procurement loss of the state amongst other indicators.

Ekpenyong explained that the state couldn't access the grant along side other states in the first batch because World Bank couldn't access the state's audited financial documents although they (World Bank) had the hard copies, but refused to use it because one of the eligibility criteria was access to an online published copy of the audited documents. 

The commissioner who said that everything has been clarified revealed that as at today, the state have satisfied all eligibility criteria for the next batch of the disbursement in August and will receive the grant in full. "The delay is caused by World Bank's inability to access the budget documents published online, which is not a fault of the state. However, World Bank was able to verify the budget on the 8th of March, 2020." He said.