By Our Reporter
Inability of lawmakers in the Cross River State house of assembly to properly carryout their constitutional oversight functions has led to massive financial recklessness by several officials of the Cross River State government.
According to an Audit report for year ended 2020 prepared by the State Auditor General, several MDAs failed to account for several millions of Naira, despite constitutional provisions mandating the state house of assembly to monitor the executive for balance in public governance.
This report is part of our piece by piece analysis of the Audit report for the year ended, 2020 as prepared by the office of the State Auditor General.
The Parchment had earlier reported how the state Privatization Council, for about 10 years failed to make their annual accounts available for comments. An act that contravenes both federal and state laws…https://theparchment.org/shocking-cross-river-state-privatization-council-that-plans-to-sale-government-assets-has-not-disclose-its-account-for-over-10-years/.
The Audit report also indicated that about 25 MDAs failed to submit their accounts for comments.
“this is supposed to be the responsibility of the State House of Assembly. Because any MDA that fails to make public it’s account books, goes against the law enacted by the house and as such should be question and infact, that is supposed to be part of their functions to monitor MDAs and ensure budget approvals are properly executed” said Bassey Edem, a lawyer and right activist.
The 2020 Audit report which is yet to be made public contrary to the practice but exclusively obtained by This paper, exposes deep financial decay within many MDAs in the State.
For example, the report accused the state Attorney General of what it called “Misuse of Estate account” and failure to refund N5,278,000.00, which it said was an unauthorized I.O.U obtained by the Attorney General.
It also indicted the Ministry of Justice over failure to retire N131,415,013.00, being advances given to sundry staff for the procurement of various services.
According to the report, in 2018 the total unretired advances for the Ministry of Justice alone was N120,706,013.00, while that of 2019 stood at N10,709,000.00, making it N131,415,013.00 unretired advances for 2018 and 2019.
While this paper can authoritatively confirm that the leadership of the State house of assembly, statutorily received copies of the report sometime in August 2021, there is no record anywhere confirming that the lawmakers, led by Hon. Eteng Williams questioned the unreasonable wastage and abuse of public funds by the executive.
The report also indicted the Ministry of Lands and Urban Development over failure to retire N24,050,000.00.
Apart from N5,200,000.00 paid to Gersh Henshaw & Co Estate Service. The Ministry also claimed to have paid the same Estate Service agent a whopping N4,350.000.00 for “miscellaneous expenses and other logistics”
A claim of another N5,000,000 was said to have been paid as compensation for a demolished uncompleted building behind the power plant. But a investigation by this paper however, reveals that there was no building located at the land currently hosting the power plant.
This paper also discovered that several MDAs like the State owned University, The State Water board company among others have consistently for years refused to submit their financial records for proper audit as demanded by law.
The action has been roundly condemned by several professionals who describe the action as a weakness of the legislature in the state.
A chartered accountant, Joseph Bassey said “When you have lawmakers who were hand-picked by the executive, lawmakers who are rubber stamp, what do you expect?
He maintained that audit report is a constitutional mandate where every MDAs are supposed to obey. “where they forget to do, the state house of assembly, in carrying out their oversight role are supposed to remind them. Anyone who fails to do that goes against the law and supposed to bear the consequence” he concluded.
Many Cross Riverians believe that if the State house of assembly have been carrying out proper oversight function, alot of the excessives by the executive would have been curtailed.
The Eteng Williams led State assembly have continued to receive knocks over failure of the 9th assembly to checkmate the excesses of the executive. They describe it as the weakest ever, calling it a rubber stamp of the executive.
In the build up to the nomination of Justice Akon Ikpeme as the State Chief Judge, the Eteng Williams led house of assembly again was roundly condemned for playing ethnic card and lacking capacity in handling the issue. The speaker was reported to have described Justice Ikpeme as a “security risk”.