News that the Budget Office of the Federation and the Federal Ministry of Finance have commenced the processes for preparing the 2018 budget of the Federal Government must have delighted champions of fiscal discipline.
The call circular for the personnel budget of the Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) of the government for the 2018 budget was issued by the Minister of National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma in May 2017.
At the beginning of August, the Federal Government also commenced the training of 4,250 personnel to be involved in budget preparation from 800 Federal Government MDAs across the country.
The training involves familiarising the budget officers on the Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS). The main goal of this is to equip the nominated personnel with knowledge, skills and the tools required to prepare and submit the 2018 budget on time.
The present administration adopted the Zero Based Budgeting (ZBB) methodology to help ensure more optimal utilisation of government resources on projects, enhance the level of accountability and facilitate monitoring as well as evaluation of capital projects.
Moreover, to improve the quality of budgeting process, the Budget Office made a commitment to making the most use of technology and automation tools. For the 2017 Budget, MDAs prepared and submitted their budget online and in real time, using a ZBB compliant web-based application with no manual intervention.
This intervention must be applauded given the background of the distortion that has recently characterised the budget cycle.
Stakeholders recall with concern that the 2018 budget of the Federal Government was assented to in June 2017, at a point when the budget should have been at half cycle.
Critical stakeholders in budget matters are not unmindful of the fiasco that became the hallmark of budgetary processes of the current administration at the federal level for two consecutive years even when automation tools were employed in the case of the 2017 budget.
The development has created a feeling of helplessness and disenchantment over the budgetary process at the MDAs.
The expectation is that from this year, the government would restore the sanctity of the traditional fiscal policy cycle of January – December budgetary operations.
We urge the Budget Office and the Ministry of Finance to adequately carry other ministries and MDAs along in their automation regime as they would ultimately determine how fast the system can run.
If the goal of restoring the January-December fiscal year which is constitutionally provided is to be achieved, we call on the Federal Government to ensure early delivery of the 2018 Appropriation Bill in October to enable the National Assembly to carry out its oversight function on time.