By Patrick Obia
The Fiscal Responsibility Commission (FRC) has ended its two days of awareness and sensitization workshop on Transparency and Accountability in Calabar, enjoining stakeholders for robust collaborations.
Held in Calabar, the capital of Cross River State with the theme: ‘sustaining the gains of fiscal transparency and accountability in States’, participants drawn from the anti-graft agencies – the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission; the media, Civil Society Organizations, state and non-state actors, Auditor-Generals of States in the south-south region of the country and among others.
In a welcome address, the Executive Chairman of, the Fiscal Responsibility Commission, Victor Muruako Esq., noted that the workshop aims to sustain the improvement in good fiscal practices by subnational government and to also seek ways to build on enhanced fiscal coordination between the federal and subnational governments which have been achieved in recent years, especially during the State Fiscal Transparency and Accountability (SFTAS) program.
The Executive Chairman represented by the Director of Administration and Human Resources, Alhaji Zailani Mohammed, expressed satisfaction that all States in the south-south geopolitical zone have their annual budget available online, even their audited financial statement and budget performance not only published online but also according to specification and with a specified time frame.
He lauded Cross River: “More amazing is the fact that the improvement in transparency has even reached local government level such that some States like Cross River have published the 2021 audited financial statement for all their local governments; it is commendable,” encouraging participants to be liberal in their comments, questions or suggestions.
Presenting his paper on ‘strengthening fiscal management at the State level through fiscal responsibility laws’, Head of Legal Investigation and Enforcement, Fiscal Responsibility Commission, Barrister Charles Abana said fiscal responsibility is fiscal transparency, accountability, and prudence in the management of public funds.
He averred that to be accountable in this sense, therefore, is to be answerable for duties delegated.
Also delivering his paper on ‘the imperative of fiscal transparency and accountability in the sustainable development of States’, Head of Accountability and Finance in the Commission – Sule Unekwuojo, identified four pillars of fiscal transparency as fiscal reporting, forecasting and budgeting, risk analysis and management, and resources revenue management.
He inferred that whoever is not abiding by section 16 (2) (a) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), has nothing to do with governance.
Day two witnessed a paper presentation on ‘ borrowing and indebtedness of the subnational government in Nigeria: why should the youth care’, by Alex Elikwu – Director of Policy and Standard in the Commission. Issues of debt management were trashed in the highly interactive session.
Similarly, in x-raying paper four on ‘sustaining and deepening results of the State Fiscal Transparency and Accountability (SFTAS) program, Mr. Chris Uwadoka said the purpose of the SFTAS program is to strengthen fiscal management of States, reduce fiscal risks, improvement and intergovernmental fiscal coordination.
He disclosed the program has made the budgets of states and local governments visible and will continue to be so.
He, however, said the four years SFTAS program which began in June 2018 will end in December 2022 but assured there will be a six-month extension.
Earlier in goodwill messages, the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in Cross River State – Tanko Ashang (SAN) said Fiscal Responsibility in democracy is important especially in the transition from one administration to another, calling all hands to be on deck.
On his part, Mr. Danladi Daniel, representative of the Zonal Commander of Uyo zonal command of the EFCC, inferred that the Commission is committed to sharing responsibilities and mutual interests of budgetary institutions. Adding: “The workshop is to provide opportunities for us to strengthen our actions and cooperation between Federal and State Governments and other stakeholders in achieving greater accountability and transparency in the fiscal operations within the medium-term fiscal policy framework.”
In the same vein, the Auditor-Generation of Cross River State – John Odey called for accountability from auditors and accountants handling government finance and assets, noting that “we the auditors are watchdogs to the government and we owe them the duty to secure all its assets” as there is no need to mislead the people.
In a vote of thanks, Okei Epia of Order Paper which facilitated the program thanked the Fiscal Responsibility Commission and participants for a successful workshop.
At the end of the highly interactive workshop, a communique was drafted which included ending all forms of inter-government rivalry, the need to amend the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007 to include enforcing compliance and sanctions, and governments having the political will to sustain the SFTAS program, among others.
High points of the event include question and answer sessions, a certificate presentation to participants, and a group photograph.
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