People have almost never had doubts about the fact that as the slogan goes “Lagos is working”. However, for all the good work that seems to be going on in all the sectors of the economy in the state, certain instances are leading to the conclusion that something fishy is going on with the Lagos State budgets, especially with regard to transparency over financial details of public expenditure.
While it is the norm- in fact, the law demands it- that funds spent on public projects are made available to any inquiring citizen, these instances have shown that this is not the case in the Lagos State budgets. Here are a few examples that are getting critics riled up.
- The 2017 Appropriation Budget: This record high budget, already signed into law, is worth N813 billion and is expected to drive further capital infrastructural development in the state. However, the exact breakdown and details of the budget are not readily available to the public. Premium Times also claims that months of attempting to get clarification on the budget have not yielded fruits
- The Lagos@50 celebration: Several activities were ear-marked for the landmark year in the history of the state, which undoubtedly cost a lot of money. However, according to the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Steve Ayorinde, received “more than N1 billion” in support from “sponsors” after “seed money” from the government’s purse was used to kickstart events. Who were these sponsors? Exactly how much did they donate? How much was the seed money? Where is the breakdown of expenses on the event? These are questions without answers until now.
- Unavailability of public procurement journal: For every state and the Federal government, making available a public version of the procurement made is a standard practice. Except in Lagos State. In the rare event that they forgot, the Social Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) in conjunction with BudgIT wrote to the state’s procurement agency over the matter. The Agency in response said upon completion of [a website] upgrade which it hopes will be accommodated in the 2018 budget, the agency website will be better positioned to supply adequate responses to inquiries from stakeholders. Hardly a satisfying answer.
- Details on the $90 million World Bank loan: The lack of thorough explanations for government expenditure seems to be a recurrent theme as even the Fashola administration toed the same path. The $90 million World Bank loan was meant to improve educational infrastructure, particularly in public schools. However, the Lagos State Government refused to provide the details of it was spent. Even when dragged to court by SERAP, Lagos State dodged the questions by successfully claiming that it was not bound by the Freedom of Information Act. Why go through that legal battle if nothing is amiss?
What exactly is the reason for the reluctance of Lagos State to provide full details of the Lagos State’s budgets? Until these issues are resolved, the “Eko is working” slogan may not be enough to vindicate the state government.