The Cross River State House of Assembly has summoned the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Barr Tina Agbor, and others over alleged budget padding.
Others summoned include: the Special Adviser, Department of Public Transportation (DOPT), Mr Emmanuel Mbora, Special Adviser, Budget Monitoring and Evaluation (SA Budget), Mr. Abang Moses Onoh, Chairman, Commercial Transport Regulatory Agency (CTRA), Mr. Mfon Bassey, and Chairman Internal Revenue Service, Ogar Akpanke.
In a press release with reference No: HA/ADM/66/330, dated 27th August 2018 and signed by Director Legislative Matters/Head of Chamber, Adie, Akabisong, on behalf of the Clerk of the House, the Assembly said it has also set up a Special Committee to investigate the allegation which it described as ‘grievous.’
“The House considers these allegations grievous and capable of generating crisis in the commercial transport sub-sector of the State. For the avoidance of doubt, the House has not amended nor reviewed or transferred any provision or revenue heads in the 2018 Appropriation Law in favour of any MDA particularly Department of Public Transportation.
“The purpose of this letter is therefore to request you, all parties to this transaction, and critical stakeholders in the commercial transport sector to desist forthwith from implementing the aforementioned communiqué and wait for the outcome of the investigation. Arrangement for your appearance before the Special Committee will be communicated to you in due course,” the statement read.
When contacted, the SSG and SA Budget denied having anything to do with the amendment or doctoring of the Budget. “What is budget tempering, who told you that? … That is not true. Who is telling you this? Would like to site the document, when I enter the office you can come let me explain to you what it is…I will call you” she said but didn’t call as at press time.
Also speaking, the SA Budget, Onoh explained that, “You can vire from one head to another but that will not make you to change the appropriation law or bill. Like in our State, the 2018 budget is N1.3 trillion. You cannot add or subtract.
“Anything less than N1.3 trillion, it must go to the house and anything above N1.3 trillion it must go to the house. So people get confused…In the final budget you can alter anything inside so long as the final figure does not change and if it is ordered by the Governor.”
Commenting on the issue, the House spokesman, Hon Mathew Olory, said it was wrong for anybody or MDA to temper with the budget without recourse to the House, adding that, “it is in the process of inviting the MDAs to come and interface with the House of Assembly on padding that there could be an adjustment based on questions asked for clarity.
“Otherwise, when a budget is passed into bill and signed by the Governor, you cannot temper with it but so many people, because of their mischievous intentions, try to misinterpret it to sooth their MDAs.”
On the alleged alteration by the Special Advisers Budget, DOPT and the SSG particularly on page 179 of the budget, Olory said, “They cannot alter it, there are very many copies (in circulation) so how can?”