…EXECUTIVE MUST BE TRANSPARENT â€“ LAWMAKER
The Chairman of the Finance and Appropriation Committee, Ogun State House of Assembly, Chief Adekunle Adegboyega, in this interview with Ademola Oni, explains the position of the House on the proposed N50bn bond for the state and the 2010 budget. Excerpts:
The executive has said the House of Assembly's slashing of the state's 2010 budget by N13bn will affect people of the state. What is the position of the House?
It is not correct to say that the House slashed the budget. Every allocation in a budget must be justifiable. If the executive cannot justify the content of the budget, it should not turn around to say that House slashed it. Remember, we were elected into the House. We are not here to represent ourselves but the people that elected us. In other words, the budget that we are talking about is beyond Governor Gbenga Daniel. It is beyond Tunji Egbetokun (the Speaker). The money that the executive is saying had been removed was not from sundry allocations. We removed N9.8bn from the budget because the money was meant to service the bond that the state has not taken. If we have not accessed or approved the bond, how can we make provision for its payment? That was why that allocation was removed from the budget. It is same ziggy (deception) at work. How can anyone now say that because the House removed N10bn from the budget, that it will create problem for the state? It is not a budget of come and go. It is an open budget. In the past, we would simply allocate N3bn for roads and roads would just be constructed indiscriminately.
The Commissioner for Information said the executive had reached an agreement that some of the areas that were overlooked in the main budget could be accommodated in a supplementary budget. How do you address this?
It is the right of the executive to present a supplementary budget. The decision goes beyond me anyway. It is a collective responsibility of all of us in the House. Like I said, we are representing the people.
The executive has said the bond is meant to fund some capital projects in the state. For example, it claimed that some investors have started settling down in the Ondo State side of the Deep Sea Port and Olokola LNG because Ondo provided some infrastructure on its side of the industrial area. So, how far has the House gone with the issue of bond?
Even the budget we have just passed had N28bn in it as bond. Olokola had just about N4bn allocation. How far do you think N4bn can go in providing infrastructure in the place. The truth is nobody is against the state taking bond. What we have said is that the bond must be presented as a separate document, not hiding in the budget. It is separate because bond and budget are not the same. The bond must be presented as an entity. We must be able to tell the people of the state that this is what the state wants. When the Federal Government wants to borrow foreign loans, did Acting President Goodluck Jonathan not send the request to the National assembly?
The information commissioner said the disagreement over debt profile has been resolved…
It is still an outstanding issue. It is not resolved. You should have asked the commissioner to give you the breakdown of the debts, that is which one is from the banks, the one from overdraft; direct loans. The debt is not clear to the members in the House.
In the 2010 budget, you removed the constituency allowance. Why is this so?
There is no basis for it. Some of us do not even believe in it. We did not collect any constituency allowance last year even though it was in the budget. For God sake, I'm a legislator; not a contractor. We can be asked to identify the projects that are needed in my constituency. I should not even be involved in nominating contractors. For two years, there have not been constituency allowances. So, that was why we removed it.
But the House added to the allocation of the Ministry of Works
Yes. We realised we had surplus; so we identified those areas that the people would feel the impact of government. We realised that this is an election year. There is the need to reach out to the people. The people do not understand Olokola and the Deep Sea Port; They will not bring any vote. So, we added to the allocation of Ministry of Works and OGROMA so that these agencies will go ahead; construct roads and the people can feel the impact.
But the House added to its recurrent expenditure
Yes. What the executive had done was to ensure that capacity building is stalled in the House. There is trouble when a legislator does not understand what is per capital income. When we went to the U.S, we discovered that these people devoted much time to capacity building and human capital development. So, we realised the need to develop the capacity and competence of the members of the House. The issue has gone beyond 'because I want to go back to the House, let me become a boy-boy to somebody else'. If you ask some people for their names in the House, they will take permission from the executive before they answer. There is more to all these than doing boy-boy to anybody.