‘It’s an after-thought’
From Uche Usim, Abuja
The Ministry of Finance Ministry has refuted Ekiti Governor, Ayodele Fayose’s allegation that it seized the state’s January allocation and N1.1 billion budget support fund.
The ministry’s Director of Press, Salisu Dambatta, who stated this in Abuja, yesterday, explained how “Ekiti State Government failed to comply with the necessary requirements for participating in the Budget Support Facility (BSF), which is a conditional loan programme to state governments, introduced with a view to enhancing fiscal prudence and designed particularly to enhance transparency, efficiency in public expenditure and payment of salaries.”
Dambatta said that was not the first time Ekiti State government would not comply with guidelines, and added that the Fayose administration defaulted in meeting conditions specified and agreed upon by 35 state governments that are participating in the programme as contained in the Fiscal Sustainability Plan (FSP).
“Ekiti state government was warned, formally, of its failure to comply with the full requirements vide a letter on August 5, 2016, with reference number HMF/FMF/ASG/1/2016.
“Failure of Ekiti state government to comply with the requirements and conditions for the BSF resulted in a letter sent to the Chief of Staff, to notify him of the suspension of BSF for Ekiti state and it was conveyed to Mr. President before payment to the Ekiti state government was reinstated.
“The Ekiti state government and all the other participating states are aware of the consequence of failure to comply with the full conditions and it is not the first time that a state would be stopped from accessing the facility due to non-compliance.
“In the course of its normal duties, the Ministry of Finance has the right to query, suspend or withhold funds as part of the conditions of the BSF.
“The process is for the commissioner for finance of any state or the governor having issues to contact the Federal Ministry of Finance and resolve the issues without resorting to the media because such issues are of a financial nature and therefore, confidential; they are routinely resolved amicably by the parties involved,” the finance ministry spokesman noted.
Dambatta reiterated that the BSF is a conditional programme and the federal government would not be intimidated or threatened in the discharge of its duties.
On Wednesday, Fayose stormed the ministry, in Abuja, to enquire why his state was denied the BSF.
Speaking with journalists shortly after visiting the ministry, Fayose said he needed to come in person since his Finance Commissioner had been in Abuja without any information as to what delayed the release of the money.
Regardless, Ekiti government has described the ministry’s explanation as an afterthought, meant to mislead the public.
The government said the state signed up for N14.4 billion and received funds monthly in the last seven months from the ministry.
“So, when did they realise that Ekiti state did not meet the conditions?
“Or did they send the allocations in the last seven months in error?” the state government queried.
The state government further disclosed that “there was no warning letter or notification from the ministry of finance before the governor raised the alarm, else, there would have been no need for the governor to write a letter to the ministry, demanding explanations on non-release of the funds.
“If they sent any letter, maybe they sent it today (yesterday), because, the governor was there on Wednesday and, before then, no one knew the reason why the funds was not released.
“The state has not received any letter from the ministry. If they sent any letter, maybe they sent it today (yesterday). This explanation is an afterthought,” the state said in a statement
It said the fund was earlier sent to the Central Bank of Nigeria along those of other states, but was later recalled and the name of Ekiti state removed from the list.