…stakeholders call for open budget process
By Gabriel Ewepu
THE Civil Resource Development and Documentation Centre, CIRDDOC, Wednesday, declared Jigawa State top among 36 States on Budget Transparency Index 2020 ranking.
This was made known by the Lead Researcher, CIRDDOC, Engr Ralph Ndigwe, why presenting ‘2020 Nigerian States Budget Transparency Survey’, which was funded by the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office, FCDO, formerly known as DFID/UkAid, and implemented by CIRDDOC.
Speaking on the Survey, Ndigwe said generally there was impressive performance by most of the states in their score along various perimeters
He said: “On public availability of key budget documents, an overwhelming majority of States improved their 2020 scores on the State Budget Document Availability Index.
“The average score in 2020 increased to 49, 17 points higher than the 2018 average of 32. While Jigawa State continued to be at the top of the sub-index, Ondo and Kano States ranked second and third with scores of 86 and 80 respectively.
“Akwa Ibom, Ekiti, Ebonyi, Kaduna, Kogi and Ogun States all scored above 60 and provide a signIficant amount of budget information.
“The worst performers were Zamfara and Oyo States with scores of 21 and 5, respectively. Oyo State in particular made no budget documents available online; after careful search, none of the links on the State’s website for their budget documents worked.
“Nine States had lower score than in 2018, of these nine, five saw their scores drop less than 10 points. This is due to these states not publishing documents online that either were previously made available on request (namely Lagos and Niger States) or previously posted on their site (Delta State).
“On public participation in the budget process, while there were significant improvements in budget transparency in 2020, improvements in public participation in the budget process in Nigerian States were not as extensive. The average score of 2020 State Public Participation Index increased to 26, nine points higher than the 2018 average of 17.
“The majority of these improvements in opportunities for public participation occurred during the formulation stage of the budget process; spaces during budget execution and audit remained minimal, at best.
“Jigawa State continued to be at the top of the participation sub-index, though their score decreased by 15 points. Kaduna and Ogun ranked second and third with scores of 56 and 51 respectively. Ogun State instituted new practices, for example inclusive town-halls in each senatorial zone to help determine and document local budget priorities.”
According to the report several states also used town-halls for the first time, following recommendations of the 2018 report. 16 States scored between 20 and 60 compared to only 10 States in the 2018 edition. Less than half of states scored below 20, meaning they provide very limited spaces for budget process. In 2020, only two states, Adamawa and Zamfara, had no mechanisms for the public to be involved during the budget process, compared to nine States in 2018.
“Public access to procurement information; the procurement in Nigerian states continued to be more robust and open than in previous years. These changes were welcome since prudent public contracting is crucial to ensuring funds are spent efficiently and effectively to combat health and economic effects of COVID-19. The average score of the 2020 State Procurement Process Index increased to 40, nine points higher than the 2018 average of 31”, the report indicated.
The report further showed that the 2020 data for sub-index indicated that all States except Enugu have a legal framework guiding the procurement process. 32 States have a legal procurement process. 32 States have a formal public procurement law, nine states more than in 2018. While all States were found to have some form of public bureau to guide the procurement process, 32 States have a formal form of bureau of public procurement, a significant increase from 21 States in 2018. 17 States, compared to five in 2018, have a public procurement council, and 11 of those States have private sector or civil society as council members. 15 States have open and competitive tender processes. 26 States published procurement decisions, mostly online and seven States published decisions on these awards.
However, the report made some recommendations, which States should develop plans to answer how transparency, accountability, and participation can help them achieve their macro-fiscal objectives and developmental priorities beyond States Fiscal Transparency, Accountability, and Sustainability, SFTAS; While States Fiscal Transparency, Accountability, and Sustainability, SFTAS, has developed objectives and outcomes, discussions still need to be held on the volatility of the online publication of budget documents and the continuity and sustainability of improvements in budget transparency over time; States should identify concrete links between each transparency, accountability, and participation and the macro-fiscal objectives identified in their State Development Plans.
CSOs need to fulfill their role within the accountability ecosystem by advocating for greater budget transparency, accountability, and participation in the budget and procurement processes to ensure sustainability of current reforms beyond SFTAS.
Speaking at the presentation of the Survey, Chairman, Dr Otive Igbuzor, said called for open budget for Nigerians to have easy access to and also participate in the process.
“The budget process should be open to all Nigerians, and whoever is interested in the development of Nigeria must join the movement for open budget in Nigeria
“It is however gratifying that the report being presented today indicates that there is progress, and that overwhelming majority of states improved their 2020 scores on the state budget document availability index.
“In particular, Akwa Ibom, Ebonyi, Ekiti, Kaduna, Kogi and Ogun States all scored above 60, and provide the significant amount of budget provision.
“It also shows that several states used town-hall for the first time, and the procurement process continued to be more robust”, Igbuzor said.
However, called for sustenance of the gains made in the 2020 Survey, “In addition, the 2020 data showed that all States except Enugu have a legal framework guiding the procurement process; these are improvements that need to be consolidated. I call on all stakeholders to push for open budget in Nigeria”, he stated.
In a goodwill message, a representative from Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office, FCDO , Sam Waldock, commended States for their performance as indicated in the Survey, “The UK is absolutely delighted to have supported this and the last three editions of it.
“We supported it because we believe budget transparency matters, and the way it matters about the citizens, and how they trust government on how all these monies got used.
“But in the year of the pandemic COVID-19 has created huge pressures on governments across the whole world, and there will be a lot of expectations on how much money will be maximised.
“We know how COVID-19 has impacted significantly on countries all over the world, and Nigeria has been part of it; the lockdown, but has brought down revenues of governments, but it involves opportunities on the budgets to make it.
“Budget transparency in the States has improved. Budget processes are now inclusive. UK is very proud to be part of this journey. We knew that this report is well timed.”
However, he called on Civil Society Organisations to hold State governments accountable, and also more citizens’ participation for much needed trust in the area of information sharing and get them involved in the budget process.
Also, a representative from the World Bank, Sabah Raschid, said, “Transparency, accountability and participation are critical in budget process. Government is expected to put infrastructure in place to be able to deliver public good to their citizens.
“There has been improvement from 2015, 2018 and 2020 with many States really moving up. All the States have maintained strong performance.
“Last year, no just pandemic that hit Nigeria but there was decline in resources, and this was informed because it had direct link with the budget, and the credibility for the budget to meet its target needs good leadership declared for its citizens.”
Earlier, the Executive Director, CIRDDOC Nigeria, Ral Nwankwo-Obioha, represented by Ifeoma Madukolu, in an address of welcome e explained that, “The Sub-National Budget Transparency Survey (SNBTS) is a project implemented by the Civil Resource Development and Documentation Centre (CIRDDOC) and funded by Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) formerly known as DFID/UkAid with the general goal of instilling transparency in budgeting and budget process across the 36 states of the federation by focusing on five key indicators; public availability of budget information, public participation in the budget process, strength of the oversight institutions, public availability of procurement information.
“Budget transparency, as we all know entails that all citizens should access information on how much is allocated to different types of spending, what revenues are collected, and how international donor assistance and other public resources are used.
“Having access means they’ll be in a better position to participate in the hearings and contribute to how the country’s resources are used and to hold Government accountable. Transparency is an important first step to holding governments accountable on how they use the people’s resources.
“It is against this background that CIRDDOC developed the SNBTS project with the objectives to compare the degree of budget transparency across states; promote international best practices with regards to budgeting and budget process in the tsates; and to inspire and encourage the spirit of ‘competitiveness’ amid states towards promoting budget transparency and government accountability.
“With the merits of fiscal prudence in mind, the fundamental question of what document the government should make available to the people to be open and expose secrecy in government accounting continues to arise. Sub-national budget documents deal with items and expenditures that are particularly visible and tangible or the citizens.
“Thus, transparency at the state level has the capacity to offer answers to basic concerns of what happened to the central government funds at the local level and whether plans to carry out community development projects such as building schools, local road, etc. were properly implemented.
“Recognising the relevance of sub-national transparency, unavailability of data on budget prudence, and knowing that the first step towards pursuing open and transparent governance is through investigation and advocacy, CIRDDOC engaged both international and local partners in this project: Nigerian States Budget Transparency Survey in the 36 states of Nigeria, the results of the 2020 edition we are gathered here to launch.”