Rivers State Government has declared that the 2017 State budget is in the public domain and is accessible to all members of the public.
Speaking during an appearance on Rhythm FM Port Harcourt’s Viewpoint Programme on Saturday, Rivers State Commissioner for Budget and Economic Planning, Mr Isaac Kamalu said that several civil society organisations and interested members of the public have been accessing the budget through his ministry.
The Commissioner also presented copies of the 2017 Rivers State Budget to the presenter of the programme, Mr Segun Owolabi. The presenter randomly read through the pages of the document for the benefit of his listeners.
He stated that the claim by the Former Executive Director of Integrity Group that the budget is a secret document is baseless.
Kamalu, a Former Member of the Rivers State House of Assembly, stated that the sacked Executive Director of Integrity Group, Livingstone Wechie is out for mischief and not to access the budget.
He noted that Wechie submitted a letter to the Ministry by 4pm requesting the budget, only to appear on Channels Television by 7pm claiming he was denied access to the budget.
The Rivers State Commissioner for Budget and Economic Planning noted that the processes for the passage and assent of the state’s budget are such that the budget can never be a secret document.
He said: “Right from the executive, the public was involved in the budget process. We had pre-budget workshops which involved civil society organisations, market women and professional groups.
“After the presentation of the budget to the State House of Assembly by the governor, the Assembly held public hearings with different committees involved. Following the governor’s assent, the Ministry printed the budget and we have always made it available for the public.
“We have a library at the Ministry where those who want to research on the budget can access it. However, if you need a copy, you write formally and it will be given to you after due process is followed. Several groups and individuals have visited the Ministry to access the budget”.
The Rivers State Commissioner for Budget and Economic Planning stated that the 2015 Supplementary Budget, the 2016 Budget and the 2017 budget are available for the members of the public to access and use.