By CrossRiverWatch Admin
The Cross River State 2017 Budget may have been passed into law and signed by the Governor yesterday, but CrossRiverWatch can report that Members of the House of Assembly who scrutinized the details of the projections by the Ministries, Departments and Agencies MDAs of government requested for ‘kick backs’ and bribes to do their jobs.
Investigation by CrossRiverWatch reveal that members of the committee in their schedule letters to heads of MDAs requested them to come with ‘all relevant things’ that will assist members of the committee to facilitate the defense of their various budget projections.
Some Commissioners and heads of Departments and Agencies who spoke to CrossRiverWatch said they were asked to bring money under vague guises like utility expenses for committee members.
One of the Commissioners who did not want to be named said, “Though there weren’t explicit about it, they actually gave it a guise. Myself and some of my colleagues were asked to bring some money to assist members of the committee buy fuel or for refreshment and just any kind of name they could create but we were all asked to bring ‘envelope’ and you know what that means. Even if you did not understand what it means, your colleagues will explain to you and warn you to better cooperate.”
The head of one of the Departments who also appeared before the committee and also paid the bribe told our reporter that “I think you journalists are just worrying yourselves too much. It is a standard practice in this country that you give envelope to law makers to do budget defense. If you don’t give them, they will create bottle necks for you. We were asked to do that and I think like I said, it is a standard practice in the country and also a demonstration of goodwill and appreciation for our legislators.” This respondent also didn’t want to be named.
Another Commissioner who seemed lost about whether it was wrong or write to pay the bribe quipped at our reporter, “Is anything wrong with that? Is it not part of their work? They have to eat na. They must do refreshment and buy fuel for their cars. Some of them worked into the nights and even weekends to ensure they give us time to defend our budget. Is working into the night or weekend part of their work? So if we give them envelope, why will anyone be complaining? You all these journalists sef… And in the end, the Commissioner told our reporter, Please don’t quote me!
But the Chairman of House Committee on Appropriation, Hon. Eteng Jones when confronted with the allegation said if any Commissioner of Head of the MDAs made any such allegation, then they were only trying to be funny.
“I think they are only trying to be funny. Whatever we needed from them for the budget defense was clearly stated in the letter that was sent to them. We did not ask anyone for bribe. I have been doing budget defense as head and member of the committee for six years now and I know the standard procedure.
“But if in the end any of them feel that he or she wants to assist us buy fuel, that is their personal decision and not the problem of the House or the Committee and that is not bribe. So that is why I say they are just trying to be funny.”
Our correspondent in the House of Assembly, Monday Ogar reports that the atmosphere in the Assembly during the budget defense by the heads of the various head of the MDAs was quite orderly and hectic for the Members of the House who worked late into the nights and even weekends to ensure they meet datelines for the passage of the appropriation law.
Members of the House Committee on Appropriation led by the Chairman Hon. Eteng Jones representing Yakurr II state constituency reportedly took a swipe at some of the MDAs who fell short of their expectations.
Fourteen MDAs appeared before members January 9, among them, New Cities Development, Youths and Sports Development, Local Government Affairs, Women Affairs, Ministry of Health, Inland Water Ways, Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Ministry of Power, Department of Public Transportation (DOPT), Commercial Transport Regulatory Agency CTRA, Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), Ministry of Justice, Establishment and Training and the Ministry of Water Resources.
Hon. Eteng Williams in his remark before commencement of proceedings said the day’s activities were aimed at a process that will affect Cross Riverians positively and the generation unborn.
He assured heads of the MDAs that House members were not geared to probe anybody but to fashion a way forward for the judicious appropriation of available funds as part of the committee’s statutory responsibility to scrutinize the budget before its passage.
Members of the committee took a swipe at the ministry of local government affairs and blamed the ministry for the delay in the payment of salaries of local government staff up to date, refusal of the 18 LGAs to deliver on the 1million compulsory contribution to the Cross River State Reserve Fund which the Committee insist is backed by law as well as the absence of budgetary projections in the Ministry’s budget for local government elections; while observing that the state will no longer access federal allocation if local government elections are not conducted before May 2017.
The Ministry of Power also got some hard knocks from members of the committee for reportedly allowing Obanliku LGA to be cut out of the national grid of electricity supply for two year now. Members urged the Ministry to intensify effort and ensure the unacceptable situation is reversed.
The committee also vowed to interface with those responsible for imposing such hardship on the people of Obanliku, part of Ikom and the Cross River State House of Assembly complex and quarters.
Meanwhile, the commercial Transport Regulatory Agency has been adjudged the best so far in terms of revenue generation performance.
Also worthy of note is the fact that the House Committee also commended the Ministry of New City Development as well as the Ministry of Water Resources/Water Board for a job well done.
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