Recently, Bauchi state Commissioner for Budget and Planning, Alhaji Aminu Hammayo hosted roundtable discussions on the 2013 budget with stakeholders for possible inputs before presentation to the State House of Assembly for consideration and subsequent passage. During the discussions, the commissioner also fielded questions from journalists, MOHAMMED KAWU was there. excerpts:
Does the planned downsizing of the workforce by the state government indicate its inability to pay salaries in good time?
Well, I really don’t seem to understand because there hasn’t really been a plan to down size the workforce. Now in terms of payment of salaries of workers, I make bold to say go to every other state in this nation and ask when they pay salaries, and I will tell you that Bauchi ranks among the best in terms of payment of salaries on time. We may have isolated incidences, I know that last month probably we had issues, because we were trying to introduce a system that is intended to help us, make our payment of salaries more efficient and where there are wastages, there are losses, there are frauds and so on, for us to be able to address that and be able to cut these areas of wastages so that we can channel those funds into proper uses.
Now, of course anytime you want to migrate from one system to the other and particularly that system is electronic, go everywhere and ask, it is always a problem, but I will tell that we have managed it in the best possible way and we have done our best as we could to ensure that salaries were paid before Sallah. Now, I will tell you that one of the major problems that we have, and I can tell you that despite of all these we were able to pay more than 70% of salaries of our workers before sallah. The Federal government declared public holiday on Thursday which was not anticipated, we know the history of public holidays in this country, the holidays are given on the day of whatever you are celebrating and a day after. Now, in this case, it came a day before and it is our intention that even the 30% or to a very large extent, a large percentage of 30% remaining would have been paid on that Thursday. So I think that this is not a failure on our part to pay salaries and I believe that we should be able to improve and we should be able to conclude on this exercise as quickly as possible, and I believe that from this exercise we should be able to make savings that we can channel into some productive areas. And I think that on behalf of the Government I really want to symphasize with those who were not been able to get their salaries before Sallah. We have the record, we know what we have done, and we paid more than 70% and even on Thursday, some that were fortunate to have ATM cards received alerts of credits of their salaries to their accounts and they used their ATM cards to withdraw their salaries. So we have not failed, we will never fail and we will pay salaries on time and we will pay everyone that is entitled to be paid his salary.
Is the 10% deduction from workers’ salaries legal?
Well, a budget is passed by the State House of Assembly which is appropriation law. And anytime within the year that you want to make adjustments or improvement in what you are going to do in terms of your expenditure or revenue and your source of revenue; you go back to the House of Assembly and you present a law, and the law is submitted to the House of Assembly and approved before the government take the action, so I would say that it is not illegal. And let me also say that we are all responsible citizens, we are all our brothers keepers, the intention of this is for us to be able to in one way or the other help those of us who are not privileged, who are disabled, or incapacitated for one reason or the other. And I really don’t think, it is out of place for us not to be able to make this kind of sacrifices.
What is the government doing about the cumulative benefits of retirees?
Well, the 2013 budget will adequately make provisions for the payment of salaries and gratuities and pensions to our retirees and I know that we had very thorough discussions with the State Pensions Board and they have given us all the details of all those that are out of service that are entitled to their payments, and we have taken those into consideration and that we are going to factor into the 2013 budget
But must government take loans to implement its policies and programmes?
This answer is also going to be simple. You fund your activities by a combination of a number of certain things, and borrowing is one of those factors that you must take into consideration, that is why for some of us who are in the financials, you will always hear people talking about leverages, what ratio of equity, what ratio of internally generated revenue, what ratio of your federation account allocation and what ratio of loan you take to be able to fund your activities, and let me also say that some of these loans are not really loans that you take to go and engage in frivolous and so on. Some of these loans are specific, you take specific loans for example the commercial agriculture loan, you take it and it is channel into a productive sector of the economy and it is meant for a specific thing and repayment has to come from this specific item.
So it is not all the times that loans are taken, in fact the law is even very clear, you don’t take loan to finance recurrent expenditure. Whatever you take in finance is specific item of capital expenditure and that is what we have done. And like I said in the 2012 we had the plan to go to the capital market to raise funding to fund specific projects which we have not been able to do.
What plans do the Government have for NGOs, CBOs, and donour agencies?
I make bold to say that those who operate here, we have a very cordial relationship with them. In fact, I will tell you that in this Ministry, the Ministry of Budget and Planning we have a unit that deals basically with these, and I know that they have really up and doing in relating with these agencies, but I will also say that at any time you have there is room for improvement in this relationship, so we are working very closely with them and it is our intention that going into 2013 we should be able to sustain this level of relationship and probably improve on what we have.
May we know what is happening with the Bauchi aircraft purchased by the previous administration?
The aircraft is still there and I will tell you that even as at today we are still paying for that aircraft. The aircraft was bought by the previous administration but it was not paid for, it was partially paid and we have been paying for this aircraft ever since we came in 2007, and we will continue to pay for it, that was the arrangement we made when we came in 2007, and as it is, you know as at the decision we have today, maintaining this aircraft every year you pay for E checks, you pay for C checks, you engage one consultant or the other for you to be able to maintain that aircraft and in terms of cost, cost of maintenance of an aircraft is very high, it is not really commensurate with the kind of revenue you generate basically if you operate this aircraft twelve months in a year. Now, the decision we have to make and it is something that we believe will come out of 2013 budget is whether to continue to maintain this aircraft at this cost, unreasonable cost or dispose this aircraft.
And personally I will say that it is better we dispose this aircraft because in spite of the maintenance you make it depreciate every year and the value of this that you have will continue to go down, so it is better and I think in 2013 budget, we will have to reflect it as being disposed and the profit from the sale of this aircraft be channelled to some other areas.
How true is it that Bauchi state government went to United States of America to beg for funds for the conduct of local government elections in the state?
I was not aware that the state government has gone to the United States of America to beg for money to conduct local government elections in the state. Iam not aware and if there are such rumours I think I will use this opportunity to dispel the rumour, it’s absolutely rubbish, its absolute nonsense. Of course when you conduct elections, you developed some kind of collaborations and partnership and there are agencies everywhere across the World that are interested in what you do and sometimes they tried to come in to see how they can lend support to what you do in terms of technical support, in terms of may be training, in terms of, that you can always solicit support but for somebody to say that the government has gone to look for funds for its elections is wrong. It is our intention that the funding, the entire funding for the conduct of local government elections is going to be funded by the state government and is going to be borne by the government, and it is going to be fact into the budget of 2013.
May we say the salaries and other entitlements of the newly appointed district heads, village and ward heads was approved by the Legislature?
Well, the payment of these categories of appointees is the responsibility of local governments and that I believe is captured or is going to be captured in the budgets of various local governments of this state, and I believed that was also incorporated in their budgets.
What are the plans of the government in areas such as education, water, health, among others?
In terms of education, you have noticed that some of the classrooms and so on in those problematic schools that are over-crowded, we has very thorough discussions with the State Universal Basic Education Board and there are plans for us to be able to re-adjust these challenges. Let me also add that the operations of SUBEB are basically funded in two folds, 50% of their operations are funded from the state, and 50% is funded from the federal government. Now, the arrangement is such that the federal government only brings in the 50% where the state provides its 50%. We have not failed all these years in providing our contributions, and we will not fail in 2013 and it is our intention that with this funding, you know we should be able to address most of these issues, but let me quickly also add that we may not be able to address everything 100%, but we will do as much as we can and we believe in subsequent years we should be able to do the rest.
What could you say about the slow face of water, roads and hospital projects execution especially those of Zaki and Kafin Madaki and Gubi dam water supply?
This is not news, everyone has heard the kind of challenges that we have, contractors that were responsible for these hospitals, in fact it’s not just that hospital, the government has taken the decision to review these contracts, and Iam sure these contracts are going to be determined. The unfortunate thing for Kafin Madaki is that it has reached advanced stage, probably 98% has been done and I know that even some equipment were already there. I believe Kafin Madaki hospital should be commission any moment from now. Saki hospital, yes it has been addressed, you know the case of Zaki hospital is even the worse than that of Kafin Madaki but I know the government has taken decision to determine that and that is also going to be addressed in 2013.
I think the issue of water supply is a very big issue, big issue because even taking Bauchi into consideration, when the Gubi dam was built 30 years ago, it was built to provide 10 million gallons of water per day. And when this government came, it renovated the old Gubi water works. At optimal capacity, the old Gubi, the new Gubi were supposed to provide 12.5 million gallons per day, and the requirement for Bauchi now is about 60 million gallons of water per day. That is the truth of the matter, and the government over the years has been discussing with the Federal government, there was plan for large or the Greater Bauchi Water Supply Scheme which has been with the Federal Ministry of Water Resources, it has been pushed, but in the interim what the state government has done over these years is to continue to provide water schemes, clusters of boreholes everywhere and I Know that this has been on-going, you know we have quite a number, we have at Barkumbo, we have at Gudum, Yalwan Kagadama, quite a number of them, and you know this is a continuous process. We will continue to do that and in the 2013 budget it is our intention that the water supply sector will be adequately funded to a reasonable extent to be able to address most of these issues. Let me also add that RUWASSA which is an agency that is responsible for the provision of water in the rural areas, we have had very serious discussions with RUWASSA, we have looked very critically the needs and demands of RUWASSA and it is our intention that we will address most of these needs within the limitations that we have in the 2013 budget
On roads, I think that I will disagree, I really don’t think that Gumau – Saminaka road project has been abandoned, for those of us who are, Iam a bloody accountant, for those of us who are engineers know that road construction no matter what suspended at a certain time in the year, but you have very heavy rains, and I know that for a large part of this year because of the rains, work has been suspended. For we have also had very thorough discussions with the Ministry of Rural Development and we are going to make sufficient provisions for us to be able to address these roads, and whether we like it or not these roads are very important to us.
What about the suspended appointments for security and political aides by the government?
Well, security is very important and particularly at this critical point in time when it has become everybody’s concern, the government will do all it can to continue to maintain the kind of peace and improve upon it, that is something we will continue in the 2013 budget. And then of course on the issue ofb political aides, Iam sure the number of political aides we will have is going to be quite minimal, not as large as we have had in the past because sometimes, time make certain demands on you, but I think we have gone fast these times and I think we should be able to have as reasonable number as we can manage based on the limitations that we have. About the visit to the twenty local government areas for us to be able to see the kind of problems we have in water supply, I think that I have addressed because Iam also a from a rural area, and we all goes to the rural areas every day and we know what the problems are, and I think on the basis of what, on the basis of the information you have been receiving, and the monitoring and evaluation that we do, we have discussed this extensively with RUWASSA and we are going to fund RUWASSA to the level of satisfaction in 2013 for them to be able to go and do a lot in terms of rural water supply.
On the issue of medical care for pregnant women and children, Iam not aware that the government stopped this policy, but of course a system evolved, sometimes they get more efficient, but as they get efficient they also begin to go down, and I believe that we have challenges in the implementation of free medication for children under five and pregnant women. It is the intention of the government that an agency called the Drugs Management and Consumables Agency is going to be created, we have done an extensive analysis in respect of that, we have gone to study states where they have had this kind of agency, and we believe it is good for us to be able to have this agency to be able to address some of these issues. So the law for the establishment of that agency has been approved by the State House of Assembly and that agency is going to come on board in 2013. It is going to be funded adequately in 2013, and we believe with that we should be able to improve on what we do in the area of provision of not just this category of drugs at every level in our hospitals and centres.
What is happening to some of the power generators in the hospitals not working?
The Government, I don’t know because if you used a generator for a certain period of time, you are expected to maintain it and I know that the government in terms of maintenance of the generators that have been provided to these hospitals, in terms of provision of diesel, the government has been consistent in providing funds for these. Agreed, like I say in terms of implementation, responsibilities are given to every unit to be able to manage that. I know that there have been reports of mismanagement of some of these resources that are allocated for these hospitals. Some of these hospitals in spite of providing cost of maintenance cost of diesel, sometimes you pass these hospitals in the night and you don’t see these generators in use. Now I know that this is an issue that the Ministry of Health is trying to address, and I know that in the course of our discussions, we also had thorough discussions on these and it is the intention of the government that the provisions that we have been making in terms of maintenance of these generators would be sustained in 2013. And beyond that we are also taking into consideration the inflationary factors, probably the increases that have come within the year in terms of cost of fuel, all these are going to be factored in the 2013 budget.
How is the government tackling about the flood issue?
The losses that have accrued just to this state and the nation at large is really very colossal. Now, floods are acts of God, you make plan but sometimes where they come in large scale that you get over-whelmed by what you have, and I believe that all of us know that the magnitude of the flood we have this year is unprecedented. We all remember how this came about, those that happened here when we are trying to manage them, the Cameroon released water from its dam and it became too unbearable for us to be able to manage. I know that the federal government is making efforts, the flood spread across 19 states of the federation, and in spite of whatever you might try to do; you are only going to be able to address this problem in phases. The federal government has released certain sums to the affected states, it is also trying to see how it can release additional funds, and then of course the states including us are also looking at that and we are trying to factor it into our budget, how we go into addressing the catastrophe that has come with the floods. And let me also say that for us as a state we are also making efforts trying to put pressure on the federal government for us to be able to do from the Special account that the federal government may think desirable so that to a very reasonable extent we will be able to address to address this, but let me say that it is not something that you can address in a day or in a month, two months or six months, we have a plan for it in 2013, and we are going to factor our plans in the budget 2013.
How is the Government going about the issue of youths and women employment?
You know rather than give political appointments such as SSA, SA, PA and so on and so forth, our plan really, because looking at our state, we have a number of challenges, challenges that my brother the director of environment has highlighted, we are faced with a lot of problems in terms of desert encroachment, problems arising from a climate change and so on, and it is our intention that from the savings that we made from the subsidy that has been removed from fuel, we should be able to come up with a programme that would engage the youths and women across the state in all the 313 wards of the state for them to wake up in the morning and be able to go and do something that would help that particular area every for eight hours and you pay them. Now, the intention of the government is to be able to engage 20, 000 youths. For example, if you take the Northern part of the state where you have the major case of desert encroachment and so on, engage these people in afforestation, tree planting, and they only go to plant these trees, water them, nurse them and next time they move to another place and you continue to pay them. In places like Yankari Resort and Safari where you have a lot of animals and you have poachers coming in, you engage them as rangers, game guards. Elsewhere, where you have the conditions there that can encourage you to go and do a lot of agriculture, engage them in agricultural activities that is our plan. And let me say that the model that we have used, the public works that we introduced in 2008 through BACYWARD where we engaged security, cleaners, is the model that has been adopted by the federal government in the implementation of the S U R E – P programme, and we are happy because they looked at all these kinds of programmes in all the states that have similar programmes and our own became the best and it is became a model upon which the S U R E – P of the federal government was created upon, so we believe with the structure that we have in place, and I have been specific to mention the source of funding for these projects, the savings from the subsidy withdrawal is going to accrue because it is release on a monthly basis. Part of it from the state will go to fund that, part of what comes to the local governments will go to fund that because everything is going to be done in every ward of the state, and whatever balances would be there will be channelled towards the provision of critical infrastructure which is intended to improve on what we do in terms of economic development. Thank you.