LASG refuses to publish details of N873.5bn budget

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Lagos State has again failed to make its budget public four months after it was signed into law by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu.

This is despite Freedom of Information requests by The PUNCH to the Secretary to the State Government and the House of Assembly.

Our correspondents also paid 10 visits in three months to both the legislative arm of government and the governor’s office but it was the same reply, “It is not yet ready, please come back later.”

After the budget was signed into law by the newly inaugurated Babajide Sanwo-Olu on June 3, 2019, The PUNCH wrote an FoI request, seeking the release of the budget details on June 13, 2019.

On Monday, July 8 – that is, three weeks after The PUNCH’s submission of the FoI letter requesting the budget – one of our correspondents visited the Governor’s Office at Alausa, Ikeja, to ask for an update.

After interrogation by officials at the security gate and stating what his mission was, the correspondent was directed to the mail office, where all correspondence are first received before being dispatched to the various offices within the premises.

At the mail office, an official, Mr Adesupo Adedeji, said the office had not received any letter from The PUNCH requesting the budget. The official said the Secretary to the State Government’s office, where the letter was initially submitted to, had not forwarded it to the governor’s office.

The correspondent thereafter proceeded to the SSG’s office to confirm if the letter had not been forwarded to the governor’s office.

At the SSG’s office, the correspondent was referred to the registry, where an official insisted the letter had been sent to the governor’s office through his Chief of Staff.

Subsequently, the correspondent returned to the mail office at the governor’s office and told Adedeji that the SSG’s office confirmed the letter had been dispatched to the governor’s office.

Adedeji then reluctantly told the correspondent to return on Wednesday, July 10, promising to follow up on the letter and give feedback.

When one of our correspondents returned to the mail office on July 10, Adedeji said there was no response yet from the governor regarding The PUNCH’s letter. He then asked the correspondent to check back at the office on July 17.

A week later when the correspondent again went to the office, Adedeji said he had not received any word yet on the FoI letter from the governor. Thereafter, he asked the correspondent to write a reminder to the office.

The governor’s Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Gboyega Akosile, was contacted in August and he promised to intervene.

However, subsequent calls and text messages were not responded to.

The lack of transparency regarding budgeting and procurement in Lagos State has been a source of worry in the last eight years.

The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria had in its 2018 Accountability Index scored Lagos 29 per cent on government transparency.

The state government has repeatedly ignored FoI requests, insisting that the Act only applies to Federal Government agencies despite a judgment by a Court of Appeal last year that the Freedom of Information Act was applicable to all states in Nigeria.

An FoI request regarding the total amount budgeted for the upkeep of former governors of Lagos State was also ignored last year by the Akinwunmi Ambode administration.

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