Assessing Sokoto state and fiscal management

Owing to the prudent management of resources and compliance to fiscal responsibility act, Sokoto state has been ranked the best in North-west by major rating agencies. SIDI UMAR reports.
Before the current administration of Aminu Waziri Tambuwal came onboard in 2015, Sokoto state was among the states that totally depended on Abuja for allocation and paid least attention to internally generated revenue (IGR). Available records showed that before 2015, the state IGR fluctuated between N300 to 400 million including PAYE. The narrative has however changed because of certain steps taken by the administration of Aminu Tambuwal to improve on the IGR and ensure prudent management of public resources.According to Abdussamad Dasuki, the commissioner for finance, the state would in the nearest future pay salaries from IGR, if the measures are sustained. Financial discipline and transparency in public resources have over the years suffered serious neglect in public service where office holders betray the trust reposed on them with institutionalised corruption and extravagance that plunged the country into serious socio-economic and security problems.Sokoto state is though often cited as one of the poorest states, but due to economic measures put in place by the Tambuwal-led administration, the state is now celebrated as one of the few buoyant states in the country capable of paying its wage bills without waiting for federal allocation.

Blueprint investigation reveals that the state is now among few that do not owe salaries in the North-west geo-political zone as civil servants receive better salaries compared to theircounterparts in the zone.No wonder many people describe Tambuwal as the best governor the state hasever had.

The recognition
Attesting to this was the recent rating of the state by World Bank and Office of the Accountant General of the Federation as the best in terms of transparency, fiscal responsibility, prudence and accountability.The rating and subsequent grants of billions of Naira by the World Bank did not come as a surprise in view ofmeasures to put an end to the extravagant attitude of leaders in the past.

Curbing financial abuse
Some of the steps taken included blockages of leakages, improvement in IGR, soft loan to genuine businessmen, prudent spending of money on projects with direct bearing on the common man and  disbursement of four billion naira to the vulnerable women and widows to support with the establishment of businesses for self reliance.As at today, investigation shows that Sokoto is among the few states that implement the N30,000minimum wage, pays salaries and pensions when due. All the capital projectsawarded by the administration are ongoing as no contractor abandons job for lack of money, the state government never contemplated retrenching workers and business activities are flourishing more than ever.

Tambuwal’s explanation
When the governor interfaced with critical stakeholders on issues affecting the development of the state particularly on the current economic situation, taxation, IGR drive, prudence and public accountability, he bore his mind and assured that under his watch, no civil servant would lose their job despite the harsh economic situation in the country.He equally told them that his administration would not condone fraud, but promised to clean the rot, weed off bad and corrupt practices in the civil service.”We are all aware that already, some states have commenced retrenchment of workers. For us in Sokoto state, we are not contemplating that; we rather think out of the box by bringing labour around the table and engage them. I can assure you that for me, I don’t want to retrench a single worker in the state, but we must reason together on how best we can salvage the situation.”Just the same way we have sanitised the payroll system of the state civil service, we are working on that of local government. We arealso going to sanitise the payroll system of our teachers and pensioners because we believe that there’s a lot to be done in those sectors. I appeal for your understanding and cooperation. These are verydifficult times, but we must all work together to salvage our situation.”Without revenue, no government can operate and no service can be rendered. “We have not been performing magic to be able to pay salaries; what we’ve been doing is managing a very bad situation. What we do is that whatever comes our way, we pay salaries as our number one priority.”We must put all hands on deck to make sure tax drive initiative succeeds for the common good of all.”Governor Tambuwal never hid his disgust for corruption. For example, when he was campaigning in 2015, he met secretly with lecturers from Usman Danfodio University, Sokoto State University and other institutions of higher learnings. While trying to woo them, he said if given the mandate, his administration would be a complete departure from theprevious administrations especially in the areas of transparency and accountability.He said, “If given the mandate, I would run a transparent government and accountability would be our watch word. It would not be business as usual.”One year after, precisely on May 29 2016, the governor while celebrating his one- year in office said following the financial report his government received, he constituted a committee to investigate the sleaze in payroll.He disclosed that the committee uncovered fraud to the tune of over 300 million naira. This prompted the government to constitute another committee to investigate sharp practices in the civil service payroll where another sleaze to the tune N 1.6 billion was uncovered.Before constituting an investigative committee and subsequently appointing a new board for internal revenue, the governor had in an interactive session with journalists swore that he would never retreat from what he started even if it would cost him his second term. “I’m committed to giving Sokoto good leadership. Probity and accountability is part of good leadership, we can’t move on this way. I dissolved the Board of Internal Revenue because they were not doing what was expected of them. “Before I dissolved the board and constitute a committee, they remitted less than 500 million naira, but now the committee is giving 700 million naira. They even promised to improve if I would allow them to apply certain measures.”

Recruits teachers and medical staff
Apart from paying salaries and pensions, the state government recruited 2,000teachers under the Teachers Service Board and another 1,192 health workers under the state Primary Healthcare Development Agency.

Commissioner applauds gov’t plan
Finance commissioner, Dasuki had during a press briefing assured the people that the administration would leave behind sound fiscal policy that would guarantee a viable economic statues.”How can we become a buoyant state without a concrete economic planthat can sustain the the state and make it more viable”? Dasuki asked.He said that the dissolution of the Board of Internal Revenue andreconstituting another by  Governor Tambuwal haddemonstrated in clear terms the resolve of the administration to lift the state to a glorious path through a sound revenue base that would shrink its dependence on monthly federation funds in the payment of salaries, settlement of other financial obligations and execution ofmeaningful projects. The new board was charged with responsibilities of reinventing the state through meticulous revenue generation drive in a defined guidelines.Mallam Abdullahi Umar, a public affairs commentator said, “Tambuwal’s style of leadership is unique, marvelous, he has made Sokoto proud and lifted it from a poverty-stricken state to a celebrated, prosperous one that enjoys attention from within and beyond shores.”It takes hardwork for the World Bank to rate and rank your state as the best in terms of fiscal probity and prudence management of public resources especially at this time when financial discipline, prudence, accountability and efficient management of public resources have become a mere expression”Blockages of the state’s purse, spending on only projects that have direct bearing on the common man and operations of the automated data base have greatly assisted the state and put it on sound financialtrack because at a time some states battle with lean resources whichinhibits the flow of social amenities, Sokoto state government is paying gratuities and sponsors hundreds of students abroad to study Medicine and other health-related courses.