By Jonathan Ugbal
The Speaker of the Cross River House of Assembly, Mr. John Gaul Lebo (PDP, Abi) has said that the 8th Assembly cannot go against the norms to publish budgets of the Cross River State government.
The 2016 and 2017 budgets have not been accessed by anyone outside a few state actors while the 2018 budget recently passed by the Assembly is suspected to be following the same path.
And, Mr. Lebo while responding to several Cross Riverians on Facebook on Tuesday morning on a thread started by development expert, Pamela Braide which sought to know what the legislature was doing about the debt ratio of the state to its revenue which stands at over 486 percent said that the Assembly cannot publish the state’s budget as it is the role of the budget office.
“I don’t want to reinvent the wheel sir, the tradition in CRS (Cross River State) is for the budget office to publish the state budget,” Mr. Lebo said while responding to a comment by Mr. Eyo Ekpo, a former commissioner in charge of Market competition and rates at the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission.
He continued: “There’s a difference between the budget (money Bill) and other bills. The office of the Attorney General and ministry of information do all publications of bills, gazette and codification.
“We will ensure that the budget is published and the debt management office will provide public explanation.”
When asked by Ms Braide what he meant by reinventing the wheel, he wrote: “All state budgets are published by the state budget office after assent by the Governor.
“All the bills passed by the house of ASSEMBLY (sic) including the budget are immediately published by the House in her Hanzard Legislative journal.
“The hanzard is prima facie evidence that the House of ASSEMBLY sat and passed the Bill in accordance with due Legislative procedure.
“Once the Bill is assented to by the Governor, the Attorney General and ministry of information take responsibility to publish, gazette and codify the Law as Laws of CRS. The ministry of information and ministry of justice even offer the documents for sale.”
In a similar manner, Nandi Bette , a retired civil servant and contributor on CrossRiverWatch had queried why the state’s budget has been secretive.
And, Mr. Lebo in his reply maintained that: “It is not the duty of the Legislature to publish budgets. The trend all over the globe is for the budget office and each ministry of finance to publish state or Federal budgets.
“However, I had made a promise to ensure that the budget office of CRS Government publish the state budget from 2016 to 2018. And, by a resolution of the house of ASSEMBLY, we have already mandated the budget to do same.”
He reiterated his promise to Ms Braide and wrote: “I assure you that the budgets will be online very soon and the debt management office will (be) public explanation on the state debt profile.”
On the matter which generated the debate, Mr. Lebo shoved the responsibility of explaining the issues which CrossRiverWatch also reported on the state’s debt management office.
“I will ensure that the debt management office provide adequate response on the issues raised here. The debt management office is in a position to offer relevant public explanation,” he wrote.
When his attention was again drawn to the issues by another Facebook user, he replied that: “Yet still let the debt management office provide adequate response and public explanation to all issues raised. I owe the citizens of CRS the duty to mandate the relevant public officer to offer public explanation on the issues at hand. That is part of our oversight Responsibility.”
CrossRiverWatch had reported that the economic watchers fear the worse indices are yet to be seen as the Governor, Senator Ben Ayade had exempted several classes of people from tax.
And, a Facebook user, Otu Ita drew Mr. Lebo’s attention to the fact that the Assembly was yet to pass the Fiscal Responsibility Commission bill despite the Governor appointing people into it. He posited that those in the commission lacked the technical know how to manage its role as nothing has been heard about the commission.
And, Mr. Lebo who agreed with Mr. Otu said he cosponsored the Fiscal Responsibility law and “was also a member of the Finance and Appropriation committee that considered the report on the subsequent Fiscal Strategy paper FSP.
“Like I said, we will ensure that the relevant MDA’S are held accountable. The Governor recently appointed the Special Adviser Debt management. He is knowledgeable enough to carry out the assignment.”
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