Group advocates capacity building, participatory budgeting at grassroots

Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance

Budgeting is an annual ritual in Nigeria, with its presentation and passage usually with fanfare. Ironically, the same energy that is used in celebrating the presentation and passage by stakeholders is often not deployed into preparing and monitoring the implementation of the budget. Preparing and monitoring the implementation of the budget is critical, especially for it to make the right impact.

The Niger Delta Budget Monitoring Group (NDEBUMOG) has been crisscrossing the southeast and south-south, building the capacity of critical stakeholders on the importance of being part of the budget process during preparation and implementation.

Between August 20 and 21, 2018, NDEBUMOG with support from Oxfam organised a 2-day training programme for Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) on “Inclusive budget and Basic Economic Literacy” in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.

Participants were drawn from CSOs, media, community leaders, traditional institutions and Shadow Budget Groups across Akwa Ibom, Enugu, Bayelsa and Rivers State.

During the training, the participants observed that government institutions are weak and are not able to deliver on their set goals, because practices, laws and policies are not working.

They also noted that CSOs are not doing enough to check the excesses of government, while politicians do not understand that civil rule is about democracy, processes and rule of law.

Observing that there is growing hopelessness in the land as citizens are becoming subjects, rather than active citizens, the participants stated that governments does budget but do not monitor its implementations, and as such, undermines the principle of fiscal transparency and accountability.

They also observed that government has not been fiscally responsible as a result of its propensity for borrowing, while anti-Corruption Agencies (ACAs) are being controlled by the government in power.

In moving forward, participants suggested that government institutions should be strengthened through strong laws and good governance, since good governance is key against social and economic uncertainties and reduced corruption in the society.

They also want government and citizens to build strong institutions for a greater society; CSOs should intensify efforts towards making the people to realise that power belongs to them, a factor, if well deployed during elections, through the media, lobbying and electoral justice should facilitate good governance for collective good.

“There should be a performance dashboard in every state for measuring of fiscal responsibility, transparency and accountability.

“Government should seek a new and sustainable means of paying its debts and should reduce the propensity for borrowing.

“Government should mainstream gender equity in the implementation of poverty alleviation programs, in such a manner, that will be beneficial to women and men.

“Budget monitoring and evaluation should be an integral part of CSOs’ everyday activities in order to ensure that fiscal transparency on the part of government are implemented without hitches.

“Fiscal transparency and accountability should be introduced as a course of study in all secondary/ tertiary institutions to fast track the indoctrination of the concept, among the teeming population of youths and young people.”

Not wanting to leave out those at the grassroots with regard to the importance of a transparent and inclusive budget process, NDEBUMOG held a two-day training workshop on “Gender Responsive Budgeting and Inclusive Budget” for selected Local Government Areas and related MDAs from Bayelsa, Delta, Enugu and Rivers State on the 30 and 31st of August, 2018.

It was part of Oxfam’s Strategic Partnership Programme of Financing for Development scheme, which is currently being implemented in a few countries and Nigeria by Oxfam through its strategic partners. The training was aimed at building capacity and knowledge of participants on gender responsive budgeting, gender equity and responsive line items in the budget with necessary social (infrastructural) pillars through constructive influencing, gender justice and inclusivity across the MDAs.

The event was attended by some state Directors of Economic Planning, HODs- Statistics, Directors of PRS, HODs- Budget/Appropriation/Finance, HODs-Monitoring and Evaluation, Planning Officers, Gender Desk Officers, Account/Finance Officers, among others, from LGAs, MDAs and Houses of Assembly’s Officers responsible for Local Government matters. Selected persons from NDEBUMOG Shadow Budget Groups were also nominated to participate.

The participants at the training observed that statistics and data integrity are essential to monitoring impact of budgetary interventions; that gender sensitivity and responsiveness are relegated to the background, at times, unconsciously by government agencies; that there are Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) offices across 36 States of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory. Ironically, Sustainable Development Goals are yet to be mainstreamed into government’s budgets. Consequent upon this, the impact of SDGs is yet to be felt across the country and that although budget is an Appropriation Act that should easily be accessed; obtaining the document should not be as difficult as it seems, especially, at the Local Government level.

They also stated that though LGAs are a separate tier of government, their finances are being controlled by the states, which often makes it difficult for the LGAs to deliver developmentally to the communities, reason the need for Local Government autonomy should not be underplayed.

They therefore recommended that authorities responsible for budget making should consciously ensure that gender justice is mainstreamed with gender equity fundamental in all the budgetary and fiscal processes.

The participants also advised that agencies with monitoring and evaluation roles should connect, synergize, and collaborate with communities and CSOs for the monitoring of projects’ implementation.

“Budget implementation and performances should be 100 percent. Fiscal laws should emphasize value for money, and make it compulsory for the Executive to publish contracts awards, including BOQs, locations and other relevant information for fiscal transparency.”

They called on the National Assembly to reactivate, accelerate and pass relevant constitutional amendment for LGAs autonomy, which will make it easier for the Councils to be held responsible for all funds accruable to the Councils.

The participants noted that building of Technical knowledge, skills and stakeholders’ capacity are required to engage in the budgetary processes, monitor, track and evaluate for effective results, hence; government, NGOs, CSOs and others should collaborate for crosscutting capacity strengthening.

Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo-Udoma

Participants agreed that: “Budgeting should be made transparent, inclusive and participatory. All stakeholders should be involved in contributing to the planning, conceptualization and formulation of the budget to remove the veil of secrecy for effective of monitoring; Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies at all levels should ensure they mainstream SDGs into their budget and expenditure plans.

“Government should make adequate provisions to each envelope’s ELI and ensure timely releases of funds for appropriated projects to avoid unnecessary demands for variations.”

After a round of training for critical stakeholders, the Niger Delta Budget Monitoring Group held two town hall meetings. While the first one held on September 27, 2018 at Enugu, the second one took place on October 4, 2018 at Delta State.

At the town hall meeting in Enugu, it was observed that women are relegated on communal consultative processes, which has hindered progress of women generationally, while lack of autonomy for Local Governments is a hindrance to service delivery and effective social infrastructure for communal good.

Participants however recommended that communities should be involved on needs assessment and fiscal consultations, while women and youths across various communities, should be involved in budget consultations and formulation, which enhances gender justice and participatory equity.

It was also suggested that communities should be involved in budget tracking to reduce the burden on their representatives in parliament, who track projects’, participate in law-making and oversights. They also suggested more shadow budget groups should be created by NDEBUMOG as a platform for fiscal networking and empowerment of women at the grassroots.

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