Joe Effiong, Uyo
The Forum of Civil Societies Organisation (CSO) in Akwa Ibom State has asked the State government to publicly show a breakdown of the N3 billion purported to have been spent on COVID-19 in the state.
Governor Udom Emmanuel had said during a recent update on the COVID-19 in the State that the government has so far spent N3 billion to contain the pandemic.
But Harry Udoh, Chairman of the Forum of Civil Societies Organisation (CSO) in the State, has questioned modalities for spending the said amount when only 1,103 persons have been tested for the disease in the state.
Udoh explained that a breakdown of the expenditure was necessary for third party accountability and transparency on how the money was expanded.
According to him, since the government had testified to have received monetary and material donations from individuals and corporate organisations, it was expedient for the people to know if the N3 billion was part of the donations received, especially as the 2020 budget did not capture the COVID-19 expenses, and even had to be slashed because of the economic downturn owing to the coronavirus pandemic.
‘You know from the onset we have been asking for transparency in the COVID-19 Implementation within the State. First of all, the government has come out to mention that sum, which is commendable because that has been one of our advocacies, but the point is that we need to know exactly where the N3 billion is channelled to.
‘Giving us figures like that doesn’t help the case while we commend him for telling us how much that has been spent, we need to have a breakdown of the expenditure so as to be able to provide third party accountability.
‘For CSOs in the State, we need to exactly know the things that gulped the N3 billion. Was it on the building of the treatment centre at Uruan. Did they buy drugs with that money? Was it on laboratory test? We are aware that testing costs between N30,000 to N40,000 as we learnt in other States. If you are spending public funds, you should be able to make the account public.
‘It is after the breakdown that we will be able to say, you couldn’t have spent this on that etc. Until that is done we won’t be able to say much. So that we know what the recurrent expenditure is; don’t forget that the same day he made that statement, he announced the increment of health workers salaries and allowances. So we want to know if it is part of the N3 billion.
‘You know this is extraneous expenditure because it wasn’t something that was envisaged when the 2020 budget was put together, no one envisaged COVID-19.
‘To say you spent N3 billion, it makes it difficult to speak to it. Does that N3 billion include the donations that came which were published in Punch newspapers the other day? Without knowing exactly the details, it makes commentary on budget and expenditure quite difficult,’ he explained.