The Bayelsa government’s false claims to transparency were punctured at the weekend following the federal government’s publication of the Paris Club refunds it disbursed to states in December 2016.
While the Dickson-led administration had cooked up figures on a monthly basis, the federal government’s publication showed it received N24.89 billion, although it had declared N14.5bn.
That means the government did not declare about N10.39bn to the people.
The Bayelsa government figures have often had similar wide margins when compared with other sources. For instance, in 2015 figures of receipts by the state government stood at N105 bn whereas Dickson claimed to have received only N87 billion in 2015.
Similarly, FAAC figures for 2016 indicated a disbursement of N99 billion but the state government owed its workforce for six months in 2016.
In a similar pattern, the Dickson government under-declared its share of the first tranche of the N516.38 billion from the Paris Club debt refund, a development that clearly illustrates the lack of transparency of the current state government.
The details of first tranche repayments of the refunds to the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory declared by the Federal Ministry of Finance at the weekend again highlights the inventiveness of the government.
The published numbers clearly showed that Bayelsa got the sum of N24.89 billion as its allocation in the refund project.
The figures accruing to other states are:
Akwa Ibom, N25.98bn, and
Salisu Dambatta, the Director of Information in the Ministry of Finance, had disclosed in a statement that the payments were made following the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari on November 12, 2016.
On the contrary, the Bayelsa State government had declared in December 2016 that it got N14.5bn as its share of the debt reimbursement.
Maxwell Ebibai, the Commissioner for Finance, announced the figure on December 8 while fielding questions from journalists at the premises of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly.
Ebibai spoke with the reporters shortly after Mr. Dickson presented the 2017 Appropriation Bill of N221.280billion to the lawmakers for consideration and passage.
As at December 2016 when the Federal Government released the first tranche of the refund, the Dickson administration was heavily indebted to civil servants. It was paying half salaries to the workers, with pensioners and local government council workers battling to survive nine and 12 months in unpaid pensions and wages, respectively.
The government still owed six months’ salary arrears in 2016.
Ebibai had stated that the state government would use 50 percent of the N14.5b to pay workers’ salaries and pensions as directed by the Federal Government.
“It is the instruction from the Governor (Seriake Dickson) to announce to the workers of the state, that we have just received N14.5bn as part of a refund from the Paris Club loan deductions,” he said, adding that Mr. Dickson specifically wants all workers to be aware of what was received.
It turns out that declaration was a whopping N10.39bn distance from the truth.
“However, in furtherance of that also, the governor has highlighted that 50 percent of that amount would be used to pay salaries and pensions of our workers,” he said, meaning that about N7bn, less than was not being declared, would be used in that process.
What is worse is that it was subsequently gathered that despite announcing receipt of 14.5bn, the state government did not remit the local government councils’ share.
It was not until March 2017 that it announced it had directed the release of N1.3bn from the figure for the councils after it became apparent that states which diverted the funds would not benefit from the second tranche.
The directive to release the dues to the local councils only came after the Federal Government had announced its plan to release the second tranche to the states and the FCT.