BY Eba Alobo

The government of Cross River State has attracted grants amounting to $20.4m from the World Bank funded SFTAS programme of the Federal Government of Nigeria.

This was disclosed by the State Commissioner of Finance, Asuquo Ekpenyong Jnr while addressing the press on Friday, January 15th in Calabar. According to him, the state met the eligibility criteria for the 2019 programme and was accordingly pre-qualified for the detailed annual performance assessment of all the qualified Nigerian States under the States Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability (SFTAS) programme.

According to the Commissioner, proceeds from the grants will be utilized in implementing the 2021 budgets of Bliss and Blush which has already by approved. He added that the budget is designed to capture more employment opportunities for youths in the state and boost economic activities.

Mr. Ekpenyong added that the state has strengthened its Internally Generated Revenues (IGR) collection, implemented biometric verification to reduce Payroll fraud, improved its procurement practices for increased transparency, strengthened its public debt management and fiscal responsibility framework, improved debt sustainability and instituted a more transparent budgeting process over the course of the fiscal year. These according to the Commissioner qualified the state to achieve the grants.

The Finance Commissioner commended the state governor, Sen. Ben Ayade for providing the enabling environment and putting together the crack team that facilitated the process. According to him “The independent verification success is a confirmation of the Ayade led administration’s commitment to transparency and fiscal performance”. He commended the state civil servants for their efforts describing them as ‘one of the most equipped Civil Service in the country’.

The SFTAS programme is a product of mutual agreement between the Federal Government of Nigeria and the World Bank, designed to strengthen the fiscal transparency, accountability and sustainability in Nigerian states as a way of improving their revenue base, increasing fiscal efficiency in public expenditure and reducing debt overhang. It is a four year programme that runs from 2018 to 2022, with a budget size of $750 million.

The Honourable Commissioner equally commended the steering committee members who worked tirelessly towards achieving the feat and called for more collaboration in achieving more in the near future.

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