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Finance Minister Says Rivers Will Not Receive Federal Grant

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Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed has said that the Southern state of Rivers was excluded from the Federal Government’s disbursement of N66.5b to states because of its failure to pass and publish its Amended COVID-19 Responsive 2020 Budget.

In a statement sent out by her spokesperson, Ms Ahmed said that the disbursement was on the basis of compliance with the Amended COVID-19 Responsive 2020 Budget, and 35 states complied with the requirements.

She said the programme was wholly-financed with a loan of $750m from the International Development Association, a member of the World Bank Group, adding that each state received N1.9bn (equivalent of $5m).

She said that the disbursement was under the performance-based grant component of the World Bank-Assisted States Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability Programme-for-Results.

The statement explained that Rivers State was the only one that missed out on the grant due to its inability to meet the eligibility criteria.

It explained that the criteria required the states to have passed and published online on a state’s website by July 31, 2020 credible fiscally responsible COVID-19 Responsive Amended 2020 Budgets duly approved by the state House of Assembly and assented to by the governor.

Ahmed noted that the Amended 2020 State Budget must also include standardised budget documentation to enhance clarity, transparency and accessibility.

“It must also significantly lower the gross statutory revenue projections, consistent with the revised Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Federal Government’s budget; reduced non-essential overhead and capital expenditures.

“The budget must be tagged and found to have allocated at least 10 per cent of the total expenditure of the amended budget for COVID-19 relief, restructuring and recovery programmes; and identified credible sources to fully finance the budget deficit to avoid accumulation of arrears,” Ms Ahmed said.

Ahmed said the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated economic and fiscal shocks had put significant pressure on states’ fiscal resources and undermined the reality and credibility of the states’ original 2020 annual budgets.

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