… Says real estate N150 m
Stephen Ukandu, Umuahia
Abia State Governor, Alex Otti, has cleared the air over the N1.5 billion allegedly voted for the purchase of two units of Hilux vehicles by his administration in the 2024 budget proposal.
Otti, however, apologised for the mistake which he attributed to a software glitch generated by the Excel package used in preparing the budget document.
The Governor spoke while responding to a question from a journalist during a visit to Ezikwu Market Aba where he sympathised with traders over a recent fire incident at the market.
Giving more insight on what happened, Otti said that the actual unit cost for the hilux vehicle was N75 million each totaling N150 million, and not N1.5 billion.
Otti said the mistake had been corrected, reassuring that his administration came on board to change the narrative and not to continue with the old order.
He insisted that Governments at all levels must be held accountable by the people if they are to succeed.
Gov. Otti commended those who detected the mistake, but said there was no ulterior motive behind the mistake.
“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.
“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.
“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.