Ahonsi Unuigbe, Edo State commissioner on budget and planning spoke to Victor Osehobo on the challenges facing the Adams Oshiomhole government in implementing this year's budget
There are many who feel that less than two months to end of the year, you should not be sending a supplementary budget to the assembly. What do you think?
When the budget was passed in April 2009, there was a particular area of the ministry of health, the health management board, HMB, which was under budgeted for. The HMB got a mere N200 million whereas it caters for the doctors, nurses and other health care professionals in the public service across the state. So the supplementary budget is making provision of N2.1 million for capital and N3.5 billion for recurrent. In effect, 10 percent of the entire budget is for the board while the balance will address other sectors. You know the government's key policies revolve around job creation, quality health services and good schools as well as infrastructural development. We are putting in more money into the ongoing beautification to sustain the tempo; we also want to purchase some equipment for refuse disposal to keep our streets clean.
How would you rate the implementation of the 2009 budget so far?
The real situation is interesting although we do intend to go public with the details of the performance of the 2009 budget since it was signed into law. As you are aware, November marks the first anniversary of the comrade governor coming into office but you can see a lot going on based on the implementation of the budget. Every week, I am sure you are aware that after the state executive council meetings, the commissioner for information briefs the press on contracts that have been awarded and all that. But I can tell you that the late passage of the budget has affected its implementation because it was not until after May that things began to take shape. Most of us in government were new and meeting for the first time so we needed time to be able to find our rhythm. That done, you are sure we have been working. Even before the award of contracts for building and construction, we had to award contracts for designs and get the best bids before talking of the contract itself. This took plenty of time. And it is in all sectors – works, health, education. So we have had quite a number of visitors coming into Benin City to assess the work they are bidding for and submitting designs that showed they had the job. As you are aware, the governor said he will not give jobs to local people who do not have references elsewhere.
Can you be specific on the implementation of the budget?
Most of the jobs cannot be done in the rains. Contractors will be asking for more money once their equipments are on site and the rains hinder their work.
Talking about the implementation of the budget in May, I would tell you that we achieved five to six percent and 10 percent in July. The level of performance will be much higher in November and in December. I intend to give details of the full implementation soon.
There are critical aspects of the budget like the maintenance of Ugbowo and Airport roads. Will they still be implemented?
Work will start on the Ugbowo and Airport Roads once the rains are over. We have completed the design. Ugbowo may start first because of the tremendous goodwill of the students for the government; the same for Airport Road which got the Oba of Benin's endorsement. For a budget that came to be based on popular participation, we will not disappoint the people. The roads will be done this year.
Is it not a case of revenue expectation falling short that is why the budget implementation is slow?
Revenue expectation falling short is part of the reasons for the slow implementation of the budget but as I told you before, the major reason is the delay in the passage. If revenue falls short, it should not affect the implementation because that is when you are required to prioritise. But revenue has not fallen short and we are well on target for revenue.
At this rate, will the 2010 budget be on time or will it be delayed like the 2009 budget?
Consultations are already in top gear for the 2010 budget. The governor has set up the committee under the chairmanship of the deputy governor. He has asked the speaker to nominate some lawmakers to be part of the committee. All ministries and departments have submitted draft proposals, which they will be required to defend subsequently.
We are now planning visits to each of the three senatorial districts to get inputs from the people. These visits will run concurrently with the defense by ministries and departments.