The Bayelsa government did not fail to meet the criteria for selection of states to benefit from the N123.34 billion World Bank-assisted performance assessment by the Federal Government for states the state Commissioner for Information, Orientation and Strategy Ayiba Duba, said on Friday.
Mr Duba who spoke to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Yenagoa following a report by MEDIATRACNET over the matter on Wednesday said the current statement administration did not participate in the assessment programme.
The report was based on the result of the just-concluded 2019 Annual Performance Assessment (APA) published by the Federal Government and announced by the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed.
The result of the assessment identified Bayelsa, along with Rivers, Imo and Zamfara states, as the only four states out of the 36 states in the federation that received zero allocations from the N123.348 billion performance-based disbursed under the current phase of the programme.
Bayelsa is among the nine oil-producing states in the Niger Delta region that routinely collect the highest allocations from the Federation Accounts.
Despite the high monthly allocations to the oil-producing states, the Niger Delta remains a hotbed of crisis and conflict, as communities continue to decry the dearth of basic infrastructures and good quality of life due to the poor management of the resources, lack of transparency and accountability by their governments.
Criteria for grant
Criteria set for states to receive the grant was based on “disbursement-linked indicators (DLIs)” including achievement of annual fiscal/budget transparency, accountability, expenditure efficiency, revenue mobilization and debt sustainability targets.
While presenting the report on the outcome of the States’ Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability (SFTAS) Programme-for-Results, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, said the World Bank-assisted exercise was for all states that draw from the federation account, to strengthen their fiscal management capacities.
The minister said strong fiscal management involved effective mobilization and utilization of financial resources by the state governments to the benefit of their citizens in a transparent, accountable and sustainable manner, thereby reducing fiscal risks and encouraging a common set of fiscally responsible behaviours.
She said the grant was to reward states of the federation for embracing transparency and accountability in their budget operations, including the publication online within a specific timeframe of their approved annual budgets and audited financial statements.
But, in his reaction on Friday, Mr Duba denied Bayelsa State failed to meet the criteria set for states to qualify for the grant, as the current administration in the State did not participate in the budget transparency assessment by the federal government.
“The current administration in the state only came into office on February 14, 2020. The state was in transition mode as at January 2020 when the assessment was conducted and could not have participated when its 2020 budget was passed in March 2020, after the assessment had been concluded,” Mr Duba said.
Describing as “erroneous” reports about the ineligibility of Bayelsa State to meet the criteria for the funds, Mr Duba insists the state government gives priority to transparency and accountability in the management of public funds.
“The report that Bayelsa State did not benefit from the N123.34 billion recently disbursed to 32 states under the Federal Governments States Fiscal Transparency Accountability and Sustainability (SFTAS) Programme for Result because the state did not meet the eligibility criteria is inaccurate and misleading.
“The claim could not have been the truth, because Bayelsa State did not participate in the selection process. It is an open secret that Bayelsa was in transition for the larger part of 2019.
“The administration assumed office in February 2020 and the budget was not passed until March long after the SFTAS condition for benefiting in the funds had expired.
“It is therefore impossible to have published the budget online in January. However, the 2021 budget was passed in compliance with the SFTAS. The citizenry is assured that the prosperity administration of Senator Douye Diri is committed to fiscal transparency and accountability,” Mr Duba said.
She said the assessment was carried out by the Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation (OAuGF) as the Independent Verification Agent (IVA) and approved by the Programme Coordination Unit (PCU) of the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning.
Outstanding pension liabilities
On the outstanding pension liabilities in the state, the Commissioner said Governor Diri has been settling the pension arrears since his assumption of office, with about N500 million released in January, in addition to the N150 million for pensions.
“Bayelsa State government is deeply committed to the welfare and wellbeing of its citizenry, particularly those who have invested their productive years in the service of the state and will continue to do things that will ameliorate their condition.
“The people of Bayelsa are encouraged to continue to support the prosperity administration of Gov. Douye Diri as the movement on the path of development has commenced,” Mr Duba said. (NAN)