• Wednesday, June 19, 2024
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NGO says citizen participation critical to budget implementation in Akwa Ibom

NGO group says citizens’ participation critical to budget implementation in Akwa Ibom

Poor citizen participation and weak legislative oversight have been identified as the bane of budget implementation in Akwa Ibom State, according to Policy Alert, a Non-Governmental Organisation.

In a memorandum it presented during a public hearing on the Akwa Ibom State Fiscal Responsibility Bill organised by the State Assembly Committee on Appropriation and Finance, it stated that accountability “cannot happen without strong oversight from the citizens and the legislature.”

Tijah Bolton-Akpan, executive director of the NGO who presented the memorandum said, “While there have been noticeable improvements in transparency during the last one year, with key Ministries, Departments, and Agencies making hitherto undisclosed budget documents available on their websites, it is important for such transparency to be matched by accountability.

Akpan who emphasised the need for citizens’ participation in the budget process from inception for them to be well informed added that the “enormous appropriation and oversight powers granted to the legislature by the Constitution should not be employed as a tool for intimidation of the executive or merely for transactional purposes, but to ensure a more effective and responsive budget process.”

He said once the Fiscal Responsibility Bill becomes law in the state, it would become an offense for the executive to send a budget proposal to the House of Assembly without a Medium-Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) or for the government to request for loans without a proper cost-benefit analysis, as is currently the case in the state.

It would also become an offense for budgets to be prepared without the full participation of the citizens, he said.

He noted that the inability of the legislature to put its powers to sufficient use to extract accountability from the executive had over the years resulted in a lot of executive discretion in the state’s budgeting process leading to a trend of poor budget performance.

He added that at 44 percent capital budget implementation for 2019, the state had made some progress on actual capital budget performance, but there was a need for a lot more oversight work by citizens and by accountability institutions such as the Office of the Auditor General and the legislature, especially the House Public Accounts Committee, to increase savings from spurious spending, reduce waste and achieve the desired level of performance for the state.

In its clause by clause consideration of the provisions of the Bill, it commended the inclusion of civil society and organized labour in the composition of the Fiscal Responsibility Council, adding that their participation would be stabilizing factors in the actual implementation of the law.

The organization, however, disagreed with section 20 of the proposed bill which grants the governor wide discretional powers to adjust the MTEF, noting that in the event of any manifest errors being discovered in the MTEF, the proposed law should provide for the Governor to submit a revised MTEF to the House of Assembly, and for the latter to give it expedited passage.

It also commended the bill’s provision on the creation of a stabilization fund and for a Fiscal Risk Appendix to accompany each year’s budget.

The organisation proposed that the law should make it mandatory for every budget to also be accompanied by a Project Implementation and Continuity Appendix.