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Ondo state budget and the reality of governance – Being a reaction to Niyi Akinnaso’s article
By Rotimi Williams Ogunleye
Tuesday, February 1, 2012, I was at the hallow chamber of the Ondo State House of
Assembly when the governor of Ondo state, Dr Rahaman Mimiko presented his 2012 budget speech to the state legislators. The thick crowd of Labour Party members and enticed invited guests bathed the chamber with imaginary cloud as if it was about to rain. Except for a few ones that have high-tech cameras, it was practically
difficult for anybody with the usual digital camera to take a very good picture of the event.
Despite the retinue of government functionaries that attended the yearly ritual ceremony of the budget presentation, I was not impressed because I know the session will not produce an avenue for budget tutorials where questions will be taken by the presenter and answers supplied to the satisfaction or otherwise of the observers and the people of Ondo state. That to me should be budgeted for when allocating time for
the session. Certainly, if done, it will do the governor and the citizens enough good than the usual read and clap system. Rather, after the speech of the governor, the legislators observed a political plenary right in the presence of Dr Mimiko debating on how to recall one of the House of Representatives members elected on the platform of the Labour Party who defected to A C N recently.
Budget as an important tool of planning truly deserves an in-depth look and comprehensive analysis. It is an important aspect of any organization that earns money and applies same for value creation and service delivery. For government, it is crucial to its activities because it ought to be a measurement tool for the elected and appointed persons. Though uncommon, budget provides a good measuring scale for the performance of every administration whereby funds are matched with projects executed. So it will be a good effort in the right direction to mirror the budget proposals of the Ondo state government and the speech so presented by the governor from the existing projects in the state and the corresponding resources expended on them.
I have read a lot of commentaries in the local and national dailies on the budget speech even when the details of the budget are yet to be presented. It is height of unprofessionalism to assume budget performance just because huge figures and relative statistics point to slight growth. For example, you may have increase in budgetary figure on education that is occasioned by increase in the salary of the retinue of political office holders, entertainment, fueling and acquisition of lands. Of importance too is the adherence to budget discipline because one thing is to budget another thing is to make money available for the implementation. One Niyi Akinnaso of the Punch newspaper analysed the budget awarded it a theoretical pass mark and in his generous conclusion, he said the title is not appropriate. Instead of caring hearth budget Niyi said the appropriate name should have been “A budget of consolidation”. The name notwithstanding, Niyi needs to be told the other side of the budget and the reality of governance in Ondo state.
According to the governor, the budget proposal is premised on estimated accruable revenue of N150 billion naira with N64.5 billion and N85.5 billion for recurrent and capital expenditure respectively. Typical of the normal Nigeria budget speech, budget discipline, project priority and efficient utilization of fund are usually omitted. That is one of the reasons why professionals are now advocating management report and fiscal financial analysis vis-à-vis fund and challenges of organizations in the public sector.
The governor, though mentioned projects that were ongoing, he chose to ignore some projects that has drained the purse of the state (Dome project, cement factory etc) from the list and used general statement to cover the rot in the public-private initiative that he claimed was successful. The governor did not reveal to Niyi that despite the huge cash he met in the state treasury and the statutory allocations collected so far, he has dragged the state into the committee of debtors in the country. As our allocation increases our internal debt too increases in a proportionate trend. At the moment, the state owes over N20 billion and still intends to add to its debt profile a loan stock of N50 billion out of which the Security and Exchange Commission has approved N27 billion. Were it not for the case instituted by the A C N, the already queuing friends of the governor who hid under the guise of institutions would have dropped the money and automatically become shareholders in Ondo state.
For the purpose of lucidity, let us x-ray the budget proposal as presented by the governor. So far, he has twelve “mega” schools of different sizes in Ondo state. Less than half of the schools are at different levels of completion three years down the road. Each of the mega schools costs between N350 million and N600 million depending on the size. A visit to Rufus Giwa Polytechnic, Owo and the two universities in the state will reveal to any development conscious mind that government needs not investment of this magnitude in primary school while its tertiary institutions are in comatose. Most first class citizens that we have around today are not product of mega schools but mega brains with mega determination, mega encouragement from the government and mega and purpose driven policy on education.
Though appear beautiful, how appropriate and suitable to primary level of education is the mega school considering over N10 billion expended on them? Any thought about maintenance? How envious could Rufus Giwa Polytechnic be? High-heeled shoes are good but how does it sound when the son of a limping man sends a pair to his father? The immediate response to the poor educational output at the primary level of education is beyond super-structures that are being celebrated. The hood certainly does not make the monk.
Dr Mimiko, while mentioning his achievements, added to his list the Olokola Free Trade zone, Arigidi Tomatoe Company and refinery as some of the ongoing benefits of his public- private initiative. But the governor knows that Olokola project is not his making and that all the money sank into the Arigidi Tomatoe Company has gone to the pockets of his brother, his in-laws and the director of the company. Except the governor is thinking of elsewhere, there is nothing like refinery in Ondo state. Its existence is only in his imagination. Yet, Niyi based his conclusion on these falsehood and window dress analysis that are contained in the budget speech.
The issue of Gani Fawehinmi Diagnostic Centre is another tissue of lies from the speech of Dr Rahaman. Hear Niyi, “A quick tour of the state today reveals ………. a state of the art diagnostic centre and other achievements. Niyi should again ask Dr Mimiko whether the state owns the facility. The ownership resides majorly in MECURE Health Services, a Lagos based Health Service Company and not Ondo state. That is why its services are not within the reach of the poor.
I invite Niyi to Ondo state to take a tour of the state in other to authenticate his newsroom theories or avail himself of the opportunities to really do what an accountant will call matching concept. Until he does that, his claim is at best a script supplied by a hatchet man for the purpose of needless mega propaganda.
Ogunleye Rotimi Williams, 47A Isolo Street, Akure.