Abia State Governor, Dr. Alex Otti, OFR, has insisted that governments at all levels must be held to account by the people if they are to succeed, saying such is the true definition of democracy.

Governor Otti made the observation on Tuesday when a journalist asked for clarification on the media report that the Abia State Government had voted N1.5 billion to purchase two units of Hilux vehicles in its 2024 budget. This happened at the Eziukwu Road Market in Aba, where he had visited to sympathise with some traders, who had lost their goods in a fire incident that occurred in the market on Monday night.

The Governor attributed the controversial figure to a software glitch generated by the Excel package used in preparing the budget document.

“When I saw that report, I knew something was wrong. I knew it could either be the units or the price. So, I called the Commissioner for Budget and Planning and asked him to check it out and call me back. He did and reported that it was neither the units nor the price that was wrong but the Excel. If you use Excel and the formula is not very right on a particular line, you’re bound to have a problem like that.

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“It’s a mistake that has been corrected,” Governor Otti clarified.

The Governor said as soon as the news of the bloated figure got to him, he immediately had to cross-check the budget numbers on his hand held device and found that the N1.5 billion was not translated to the total budget figure and he was reassured.

“In statistics and even in accounting, there is what is referred to as the materiality concept and that talks to the significance of a number to influence outcome. So if you check N1.5 billion against N487 billion budget, that translates to about 0.3%, less than half percent of the total figure, and I believe that it is not that significant in determining outcome. So even if the wrong number was carried down to the total, it wouldn’t have been material.

“But suffice it to say that anything that comes from government must be correct. It is an error, and it has been corrected.

“I must thank the people who pointed out the error. It means that people are vigilant; people are checking and I encourage people to check, hold government to account.

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“I believe that our people should remain awake and be vigilant and hold governments to account because the governments are governments of the people, for the people and by the people and that is the definition of democracy.

“But having said that, that you have produced a budget does not mean that everything in the budget must be spent. I tell my people that out of the two parts of the budget, the one part of the budget that is sacrosanct is the revenue but the expenditure part of the budget must not necessarily be exhausted. And for my government, the fact that you have something in the budget does not mean it must be spent. You will still come back to me for approval.

“I don’t think there’s anything to worry about. The overall numbers are correct and the figure of N1.5 billion was actually N150 million; two units of Hilux vans at N75 million each will give you N150 million, that’s the correct number,” the Governor reassured.

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