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2017 budget: Leaders calls for inclusion of business leaders, NGOs, general public

A cross section of decision makers and political leaders in the country on Monday canvassed for active participation and inclusion of business leaders from the organised private sector, NGO, and general public in the 2017 budgetary process.
Some of the political leaders who spoke in Abuja, at the inaugural edition of ‘The Gallery Colloquium’ with the theme: ‘A conversation on reforming the budget process in Nigeria,’ including: Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto; Speaker Yakubu Dogara; Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu; Udoma Udoma, Minister of Budget and National Planning and Eze Onyekpere, Lead Director of Centre for Social Justice, unanimously underscored the need for reform of the Nigerian budgetary process in the bid to check various abuses.
While speaking, Tambuwal who doubles as chairman of the occasion, expressed regrets over the deficiencies in the Nigerian budgetary process.
In the bid to correct the anomalies, he emphasised the need for Federal Government to “reform the federal budgetary process to make it more lucid, inclusive and implementable,” in the bid to avoid previous pitfalls.
“Part of the reasons why we have had problems with the budget over the years is the paucity of knowledge about the whole budget process. This type of conversation is therefore critical to the effort we must make to make the budgetary process accessible to all and encourage more participation in this crucial national issue.
“It is our firm belief that if more stakeholders, especially the major players in the process, can gain greater insight into the whole system of budgeting, and if the National Assembly as an Arm of Government can attain the dexterity demanded to examine the budgetary estimates submitted annually by the President, there will be less attrition and mistrust between the two Arms of Government.
“One of the problems we have in this country is near absence of planning in our budgetary process. If at all we are interested in making progress in our efforts to reform our budgetary process, we have to begin to get our planning and budgeting right.
“Can you imagine from rolling plans and annual budgets through to Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and annual budgets, it has always been a routine? Our planning and budget design is executed without zeal and passion and it is similarly implemented without much national commitment. Perhaps that was why appropriations in this democratic dispensation have had a chequered history which is a common knowledge.
“This idea of inclusiveness should not only pertain to members of the National Assembly who are constitutionally mandated to perform oversights on the federal budget, but should include other arms of government, civil society groups, leaders of the private sector and private citizens. Everyone, in fact, must be allowed to contribute at every stage from the budget preparation, passage, implementation, supplementary or amendment stages.
Tambuwal also stressed the need for Mr President to present the succeeding year’s budget before January 1st of the New Year, just as he called for urgent Constitution amendment to “make the President submit his proposals at least three months before the end of the preceding financial year so that the legislature can perform its vetting duties in time for the Budget to be operational by January 1st.
“Indeed, it will be helpful if the National Assembly gets some kind of time frame within which it is expected to finish deliberations and return the budget to the President for assent.
“For the process of passing our national budget to become harmonious, less turbulent, and implementable, the stakeholders must develop the principles of collaboration, consensus and compromise. Most significantly, the Executive must plan way ahead, submit the proposals early, and make wide consultations to encourage inputs from a variety of stakeholders,” Tambuwal said.
In his keynote address, Udoma Udoma, Minister of Budget and Planning who admitted that the processes of producing the annual budgets have been extremely contentious, observed that the “main issue of contention has been the respective powers of the Executive and the Legislature in producing the budget.
“By virtue of Section 81 of the Constitution the President has the prerogative of formulating the budget and drafting the Appropriation Bill and presenting the estimates. The President “shall cause to be prepared and laid before each House of the National Assembly at any time in each financial year estimates of the revenues and expenditures of the Federation for the next following financial year” The role of the National Assembly is to consider these and, thereafter, pass the Appropriation Bill into law.
Udoma represented by Kayode Obasa, Director of Economic growth, who urged both parties to be wary of the “debate as to who has what power”, however stressed the need to “develop a practice and convention that works for us here in Nigeria.
In his remarks, Speaker Yakubu Dogara who cited Section 318 of the Constitution lamented that the abysmal and partial implementation of the budget was responsible for the failed budget process in the country.
“A situation where an approved budget is not allowed to operate for 12 months is constitutionally unacceptable. This is the main reason for failure of budget implementation every year and the cause of abandoned projects that litter the Nigerian landscape. When projects are not completed, the nation is terribly short-changed as the money and effort invested in it is lost.
“In this regard, we must institute a compulsory mechanism that rolls over major projects that is not completed in one budget year into the following year’s budget. The current practice of not including on-going projects in the following year’s budget is a huge waste of resources.”
Dogara also urged President Buhari to make full disclosure on the national budget size to include all sources of revenue and expenditure of all government agencies including NNPC, CBN and others an integral part.
While commending the president for attaching details of NNPC and CBN budgets to the 2016 proposal, he also affirmed the resolve of the House to conduct proper oversight on the implementation of the 2016 budget, which he has directed all committees of the House to begin.
“As a result of all these observed anomalies and need for change and reform that I recently announced that the House will set up a Budget Reform Committee to undertake a thorough and holistic review of all issues relating to the Budget to ensure due process, more transparency, better accountability ,openness and value for money. This Committee will comprise experts and professional organisations and will work in liaison with the Senate and the Executive branch,” Dogara said.
On his part, Eze Onyekpere, harped on the need to ensure effective implementation of the MTEF which provides veritable details on the achievements of the preceding year and set template for the succeeding year.
While underscoring the role of the Executive in the formulation of budget proposal, Onyekpere argued that legislature cannot be a rubber stamp, hence has a constitutional role to play in relations to turning out an implementable budget for the country.
He lamented a situation where the Executive arm excluded some key agencies out of the budget estimate submitted to the National Assembly for consideration.

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