Iyobosa Uwugiaren in Abuja
Subjecting the budget process in the National Assembly to public hearings to provide for an all-encompassing multi-stakeholder involvement has been identified as one of the key solutions to reforming the country’s public finance and ensuring equitable nationwide development.
Also, up scaling transparency and accountability through workable budget tracking measures, which involve citizens at all levels, has been listed as a major step in making the annual budget work in the public interest.
These recommendations were part of a 12-point communiqué raised from the OrderPaper.ng Colloquium on budgetary reforms held on September 26, 2016 in Abuja and attended by campaigners from the National Assembly, the executive, civil society, media, development partners, and other critical stakeholders.
The communiqué which was jointly signed by Oke Epia, Publisher of OrderPaper.ng; Anthony Ubani, Moderator of the Technical Panel; and Chido Onumah, head of the team of rapporteurs for the colloquium, harped on timeliness of budget presentation, stressing that “the executive and legislature should adopt a more participatory budgeting process by widely consulting with the citizens and other stakeholders through public hearings.”
Other resolutions reached at the meeting included: “That a formal forum for pre-budget consultations and liaison between the legislature and the executive should be created in order to reduce the instances of disagreements and bickering between the two arms upon presentation of the Appropriation bill, passage and subsequent implementation.
“That the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) should be adopted as a benchmark for determining what projects to be included in the budget which should be equitably spread across the country; and that provision of the Fiscal Responsibility Act should be strictly adhered to in the preparation and implementation of the budget whilst a holistic look at the Act should be considered to take care of observed deficiencies.’’
The stakeholders also resolved that there should be effective tracking of projects and evaluation of budget expenditures to ensure transparency and accountability whilst the role of anti-corruption agencies in the budgetary process clearly defined and enhanced.
“Multi-stakeholder consultations including the private sector, development partners and the media should be undertaken for the budgetary process;” and that “the media and civil society should improve their watchdog roles in monitoring the budgetary process”, the communiqué added.
The stakeholders at the colloquium which was chaired by Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal and had presentations from Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, and representative of the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udo Udoma, also recommended reform of the procedures of budgeting in the National Assembly to ensure better accountability, transparency and openness; and making a budget law to cover the processes and procedures of the budgetary exercise with strengthening legislative oversight being a key focus.
The communique added: “The National Assembly Budget and Research Office (NABRO) should be established without further delay; and “continual engagement of relevant stakeholders and to report on gains made with respect to the implementation of resolutions.’’
The colloquium which also had Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu; Eze Onyekpere, fiscal governance expert and Lead Director at Centre for Social Justice (CENSOJ); and Sen. Ita Enang, Senior Special Assistant on National Assembly Matters (Senate) to the President in participation, also commended OrderPaper.ng for “convening the conversation at such auspicious time in the country’s history and urged all stakeholders to continue to support the initiative.”
Members of the technical panel at the colloquium, which had “Budget as a tool for Accelerated Economic Development in Nigeria” as theme, were Sen. John Enoh, Chairman, Senate Committee on Finance; Sen. Shehu Sani, Chairman, Senate Committee on Domestic & Foreign Debts. And Hon. Kingsley Chinda, Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts.
Others include, Hon. Lawal Garba, Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Constituency Outreach; Sen. Chris Anyanwu, member of the 6th and 7th Senate; Dapo Olorunyomi, Publisher, Premium Times; Victor Muruako, Acting Chairman Fiscal Responsibility Commission (FRC); and Imoni Amarere, Managing Director, News Services, Daar Communications.
The communique, which had earlier been read out and adopted by a unanimous voice vote by all participants at the colloquium, was the highpoint of the event billed to be an annual exercise, according to its organisers.