Delta State and Accountability in Governance
The essence of democracy is that periodically those at the helms of affairs give account of their stewardship to the electorate, the owners of the electoral sovereignty. In so doing, the masses would know the success and challenges of government. And this is normally done by government officials, be they the president, ministers, governors or commissioners by briefing the press. And this was what informed the organization of ministerial press briefing by the Ministry of Information, Delta State under the captainship of Patrick Ukah, the Commissioner of Information in December, 2015.
And since money is the be all and end all in the conduct of government business, the Delta State Finance Commissioner Olorogun David Edevbie gave a startling account of the finances of the state and how the government was able to weather the economic storm against the backdrop of pipeline bombing and the crashing price of crude oil. Edevbie at that briefing in Government House, Asaba clearly demonstrated that he was in a familiar terrain as charts and figures were shown to journalists and other critical stakeholders on how the finances of the state were managed. He disclosed that between June 2015 and September 2016, N56,646,821,063.75 was internally generated by the state government. He said that over 95 per cent of the state total IGR was directly attributable to the efforts of Delta State Board of Internal Revenue. He also said that the sum of N138,781,057,775.89 was meant for capital expenditure during the period under review. He however said that the actual capital expenditure for the period was only N48,394,155,549.62 representing a budget performance of 34.87 per cent. He disclosed that the recurrent expenditure was very high, saying that that sum of N192,324,11,293.52 was on recurrent compared to the budgetary provision of N209,903,681,105.58.
On payment of salaries, Edevbie said that the government was meeting its obligations but concurred that `Owing to the continuous decline in the revenues accruing to the state most especially from the Federal Allocation, it has been very difficult to meet the full payment of salaries and pension as and when due...In such cases, only the net salaries were paid to the beneficiaries while the deductions were released subsequently upon availability of funds. As at the end of October 2016, the state is owing N9,236,203,719.40 as arrears of such deductions`.
The Finance Commissioner stated that to ensure transparency and accountability in IGR, in June 2016, the office of the Accountant General replaced the manual Treasury Books used in collecting government revenue with an electronic receipt. This, according to him, eliminated fraud and financial leakages with the state government getting more money. The commissioner outlines the vision of his Ministry: `Overall, our primary concern is to promote a safe sound and stable financial system in the state. The Ministry is determined to realize this objective through the commitment of the management and staff to running an efficient establishment that is responsive to the needs of all stakeholders to promote stability and confidence in the state financial system`.
On his part, the Information Commissioner, Patrick Ukah, the midwife of the ministerial press briefing explained that the aim was that all the state commissioners were able to give first hand information to all Deltans and to show that the state government has nothing to hide. He explained the aim of the ministerial press briefing :`Over the last two weeks, we have been afforded the opportunity to get first hand information as well as seek clarification of the inner workings of each Ministry, as they gave account of their stewardship on how well the administration has implemented the PDP`s manifestos.`
Ukah lauded the policy thrust of the Okowa administration: ‘Through the efforts of the Ministry, the policy thrust of the Government -`the SMART agenda` - is now a common and well known rhetoric to Deltans and non Deltans alike. The Ministry of Information have rolled out different strategies over the past 18 months to get the populace to be in tune with the SMART agenda of the Okowa-led government. Also the ministry was able to properly articulate all the projects and programmes of the various MDAs for the period under review, and the objective was to propel the people towards a common goal of prosperity for all Deltans`.
On the state two media outfits, the Delta Broadcasting Service and The Pointer newspaper, Ukah said a lot of efforts and energies were put in place to make them more visible and pass information to the public about government activities. He stated that DBS Asaba and Warri in the nearest future shall operate as one so that during major news broadcast, the two stations will air the same news bulletin and other relevant programmes meant to enlighten the people of the state on government activities. He also disclosed that there would be vigorous grassroots broadcasting that will be anchored on the activities of the people at the local level and a well articulated feedback mechanism.
On The Pointer newspaper, these are the plans of the state government: `The Ministry have designed a strategy that will re-focus the company and position it to be commercially viable. The programme was anchored on a more effective distribution and circulation of The Pointer titles and improvement on the editorial. The Ministry has put necessary machinery to gain heavy presence across the country and create a larger market share in terms of sales and advert patronage`. Through the efforts of the ministry, according to Ukah, the state government is constructing a befitting NUJ secretariat building in Asaba and would be completed before March 2017. Ukah also said that a new brand identity has been created for the state. He explained the concept behind the brand: `The new Brand Identity was designed to clearly define our beliefs, values and interests. It is targeted to influence the perception of Deltans on how they see and understand themselves, their beliefs, needs, motives, interests and learning as a unique set of people. It is an expressive image of Delta State Government and its standards, product brands, forums and events`.
Julius Oweh, a journalist, Asaba, Delta State. 08037768392