Group Ad­vo­cates Ca­pac­ity Build­ing, Par­tic­i­pa­tory Bud­get­ing At Grass­roots

The Guardian (Nigeria) - - NEWS FEATURE - By Gbenga Salau

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 southsouth, 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 par­tic- ipants 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.

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.

Udoma Udoma, Bud­get and Na­tional Plan­ning Min­is­ter

Zainab Ahmed, Min­is­ter of Fi­nance

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