…promises to work with stakeholders to strengthen accountability and transparency in LGAs
Ndifreke Jacob, Uyo.
The Local Government Component of USAID State2State Activity implemented in Bauchi, Sokoto, Ebonyi and others has been expanded to Akwa Ibom State.
The USAID program was officially launched on Thursday, 8th September at Watbridge Hotels & Suite, IBB Way, Uyo.
Making a presentation on the overview of the State2State Activity, the Akwa Ibom State Lead, Mr Borve Paago-Imabel said that ‘’in Nigeria, the program will run from 2020-2025. The purpose of the State accountability, transparency and effectiveness activity in the targeted state is to increase accountability and transparency of States and LGAs in Nigerian states.
Specifically, the activity seeks to increase efficiency of sub-national operations, strengthen governance systems with a focus on public financial management and procurement as well as monitoring and evaluation related to the delivery of services in few sectors of basic education, primary healthcare, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH)’’. He added.
According to him, the program seeks to improve sub-national problem responsiveness, citizen’s engagement, increasing government ability to respond to citizen’s needs and priorities, adding that Akwa Ibom State signed into the activity in March 2021 and has been part of series of surveys and many more which informed the participatory design of interventions to address gaps identified from the baseline surveys.
The Akwa Ibom STL while noting the contributions of the Akwa Ibom State Government under Mr Udom Emmanuel said since the inception of the Activity in 2021, ‘’the state government has demonstrated its appetite for public sector reforms by meeting the minimum conditions agreed with participating States through the provision of office space and inauguration of the State Transformation Committee in June 2021″.
Also, he commended the Akwa Ibom State Transformation Committee for its support to the S2S activity, other development partners, and other stakeholders in the state, maintaining that they’ve have been an integral part in the successes recorded in the State.
Further, Paago-Imabel revealed that the S2S Activity in Akwa Ibom State has helped in the domestication of public finance management, legal and regulatory instrument. He added that S2S has supported subnational institutional capacity in their physical application plus policies across PFM institutions in the state and provided technical and logistics support to staff of the Ministry of Economic Development, Finance and related MDAs.
Speaking on findings from Social Services Assessment, Mrs Munachi Odunlana, CE-CB Specialist in her report, disclosed that the survey was conducted across seven pilot LGAs – Uyo, Ibesikpo Asutan, Obot Akara, Onna, Oron, Ikono and Itu.
Part of the findings revealed that the Federal Government School Program initiated by the President Muhammadu Buhari’s government was not carried out in Akwa Ibom State in 2022.
On findings from LGA Self-Assessment, Dr. Iboro Nelson, LG Manager who presented a detailed report said that the objective of the report was to generate reliable data in State2State’s three key target sectors (basic education, primary healthcare and WASH) within the six domain – LG development plan, Budgeting, Service Delivery, Procurement, Governance and State-LGA Interface.
The LG Manager disclosed that the LGAs Self-Assessment Indicator adopted 6 domain and were scored on a scale of 1-4. From the total score point of 4, Uyo had the highest score of 1.52 which is far below average.
In the State2State recommendation, the group appealed to the local government to muster the political will to galvanize stakeholders to be part of the process, stressing on the adoption of bottom-up approach.
On Budgeting, the group recommended that since LGA are moving towards adopting IPSAs accounting method of budgeting, therefore modern equipment such as laptops and desktop computers should be made available to the Budgeting Planning, Research and Statistic department and Finance staff.
On effective delivery, State2State appealed that basic services such as WASH facilities be prioritized in schools. Also, basic teaching and learning equipment be made available for teachers.
They appealed that State Procurement Bureau should prioritize the full implementation of the State Procurement Law especially at the local government level.
While frowning at the closure of the legislative arm of the LGA against the people, they appealed that steps be taken to involve people in the legislative business and sittings in the local government, adding that LGAs should set up social media handles and official websites for their people as it will serve multiple purposes of accommodating the young population and for communication purposes.
In addition, the group appealed that a complaint management mechanism be set up to handle complaints from community members to help foster inclusion.
Earlier in his goodwill message, the Chairman of State Transformation Committee and Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Linus Nkan ably represented by Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance, Mr. Mark Umoh applauded State2State for joining forces with government to streamline things to ensure accountability and transparency.
The STC noted that every system of government and financial policies is intended to serve the people and as such the culture of transparency and accountability should be integrated into the grass-root for effective delivery.
He observed that as innovation spring up in the accounting system, tools and expertise needed to meet global standard should be provided, adding that governor Udom Emmanuel is poised to ensuring all the highlighted problems are addressed.
Similarly, the Commissioner for Local and Chieftaincy Affairs, Hon. Frank Archibong represented by the Director Inspectorate & Monitoring, Mrs. Ime Akpan appreciated USAID for starting a good work in the State.
Hon. Archibong noted that for the impact of the government to be left in all quarters, all the LGAs in the state must be involved in the scheme of things.
In his contribution, the Onna LGA Chairman, Mr Iniabasi Ekanem refuted the USAID findings on Local Government Areas Assessment through the Indicator tools of Local Government Development Plan, Budgeting, Service Delivery, Procurement and Governance scoring 1.50, 1.00, 1.00, 1.00 and 2.25 respectively using the scale of 1 – 4 where 4 is the highest score and 1 is the lowest.
Mr. Ekanem also raised concerns on some issues affecting his LGA to include vandalization of property e.g. water facilities, schools and healthcare centres installed by government, poor communication mechanism by LG Coordinators and insecurity.
Other concerns raised by participants include – grassroot security, poor engagement of citizens, and confiscation of school lands by communities and poor hygiene system in schools.
Flagging off the program, the Secretary to the State Government, Engr. Emmanuel Ekuwem represented by the Senior Special Assistant to Governor Udom on Multilateral & Donor Agencies/STC Secretary, Hon. Ndianabasi Udom noted the assessment report is a clear indication that change isn’t easy.
He emphasized that if the assessment report is to be taken seriously, therefore there’s need for stakeholders to first change their mentality and sustain a culture of maintenance of property in their domain.