Fiscal Responsibility: NGOs Call for Independent Commission, Stiff Penalties for Violators
Civil society groups in Akwa Ibom State have urged the state House of Assembly to firm up the Akwa Ibom State Fiscal Responsibility Bill with provisions that will guarantee the independence of the proposed Fiscal Responsibility Commission, greater public access to fiscal information and sanctions to deter potential fiscal offenders.
In a statement issued at the end of a public hearing on the Bill in Uyo, Tijah Bolton-Akpan, Acting Executive Director of Policy
Alert: The Grassroots People Empowerment Foundation, said: “The proposed Fiscal Responsibility Bill has done well to create rules to guide public expenditure and promote long-term fiscal sustainability.
Finally we can look forward to a rule-based system that will replace the current culture of executive discretion in public finance management which fosters corruption and promotes waste.
However, we note that the Bill does not go far enough to guarantee independence of the proposed Fiscal Responsibility Commission and fails to stipulate penalties for offenders.
“These gaps may end up rendering the proposed Commission a toothless bulldog as we have seen happening at the federal level and in some of the states where the law is already in force.”
He added: “We also observe that the Bill is not strong enough on provisions to ensure proactive, mandatory and timely disclosure and publication of all government revenue and expenditure transactions.
Citizens’ access to fiscal information is critical to promoting responsible management of public resources and passing the Bill into law without including such provisions will rather undermine the objective of the proposed law.”
Harry Udoh, Chairman of the state’s civil society umbrella group, Akwa
Ibom State Guild of Community Development Advocates (AKGCODA), said:
“We commend the Speaker of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly and
his colleagues, especially the sponsors of the Bill, for rising to the
occasion by initiating this legislation as a private member bill after
years of delay from the executive. However, we must add that this Bill
cannot succeed in isolation. There is also need to make haste on the
enactment of a Public Procurement Law for the state as both laws are
Udoh also urged the House to ensure that the Bill is passed into law
quickly and called on the state executive council to muster the
political will to implement the needed reforms.
It could be recalled that the current bill was initiated in the Akwa
Ibom State House of Assembly as a private member bill after
unsuccessful efforts by civil society groups and other stakeholders to
get successive governors to forward an earlier draft bill produced since 2010 to the Assembly.