By Amos Oweifighe
THE positive role of citizens’ participation in the budgetary process on effective service delivery in the public sectors of developing countries has come to the fore in recent time.
This is in recognition of the fact that citizens who are the main stakeholders are partners in development engineering of the state.
Governments in developing countries are increasingly becoming aware that citizens’ inputs are imperative to the development of the state as they want to be involved in the governance of the state by participating in the budgetary process, considering the fact that failure of governments policies negatively impact on development of the country.
A World Bank report on studies of Brazil, India, South-Africa Uganda and USA showed that citizens’ participation in budget-making process made service delivery more efficient and effective. Therefore, the inputs of stakeholders are paramount to the success of the development agenda and goals of governments.
Consequently, governments all over the world have recognized the rich diverse background of the citizens and inputs in making budgets development-driven.
It has also been established that when citizens are engaged, they provide useful information that can improve efficient allocation of resources, vital information that may not be privy to the traditional bureaucracy.
It is in a bid to reap the benefits of citizens’ participation in the budgetary process that the Governor of Bayelsa State, Douye Diri, recently convened a conference of stakeholders to deliberate on the 2021 state draft budget to seek their inputs.
It will be pertinent to point out that it is the second of such conferences to be convened in the state. The first was convened to seek inputs from the citizens on the 2020 revised state budget occasioned by the adverse effects of COVID-19 pandemic on the revenue in-flow of the state.
Governor Diri, while highlighting the significance of the Conference, said: “… This programme offers us a unique platform to harness our views on an important developmental exercise, the Bayelsa second 2021 citizens Annual Budget.
It is part of his determined efforts to enthrone sustainable development and citizens driven budget. A budget that is intended to enable leaders meet citizens’ expectation.
The essence of the conference is to make the 2021 budget unique, driven by citizens’ inputs, thereby opening the window to allow the people representing diverse interest groups to be part of the state 2021 budget. The involvement of citizens in the making of the state budget is geared towards effective utilization of public funds based on the needs of the people.
It is also noteworthy that the conference is in accordance with section 22 (2) of the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2009 as amended, which states that ‘the government shall direct citizens conference to be convened and cause the outcomes of the said conference, together with the view expressed to be published on the state website”.
Governor Diri’s administration, I understand, is poised to adopt best practices in budgetary process by engaging all stakeholders, which include the executive, legislature , civil society , labour , youths, women, community leaders and the physically-challenged.
The governor’s pragmatic move in convening this conference to deliberate on the 2021 state budget is historic and has given hope to the state and the people.
He has declared that transparency would be one of the cardinal principles of his administration. It is only a governor who does not hide anything and means well for the people that will take extra-ordinary measure to open up the budget making process to the public.
Transparency in government should be the building block of any government, more so for a government that is bent on courting the public and making qualitative difference on the lives of the people.
By involving stakeholders, the governor has demonstrated that citizens’ engagement in the budgetary process would demystify the process and make the government accountable to the people. This is a big plus to the government and has added to the rising credibility profile of governor Diri’s administration.
Governor Diri premised his open invitation to stakeholders on the ground that contributions are paramount to the realization of the goals of the administration and is also intended to speed up the level of development of the state.
The governor’s action implies that when citizens are involved in the budgetary process; they will have a sense belonging and fulfillment that they are part of the making of the annual budget of the state.
For a government to consider them worthy to be part of the state budget, will help in project implementation and ultimately reduce the issue of abandoned projects and wastage usually associated with budget implementation.
Governor Diri’s wise decision in involving stakeholders will certainly eliminate duplication of projects by various ministries and agencies of government.
One can say without any doubt that, the governor’s idea of citizens’ participation is a clear attestation and signal of the state‘s trajectory to the path of transparency, greatness, fair allocation of resources that will result in unprecedented level of development.
It is pertinent to note that governor Diri‘s stance that citizens’ engagement is imperative is born out of the fact that citizens participation can help the government to be more accountable and responsive to the needs of the people and also improve the public perception of the state government’s performance.
Allowing stakeholders to participate in the making of the state budget will also reduce the rate of corruption associated with budgets as it has been established that in the budgetary process, fictitious figures are embedded in the budget by officials of ministries and agencies.
Governor Diri has shown that instituting transparency in making of the state budget will improve the government’s credibility profile.
During the opening of the conference, the governor said the government would focus on security, health, education and agriculture in the 2021 fiscal year for allocating resources among competing needs.
He opined that the plans laid out earlier for delivering on his promise and obligation to the citizens of Bayelsa state are on course.
The governor also pledged that inputs garnered from the conference would provide a template in making the 2021 state budge a huge success,’your wise views will be aggregated to form one dynamic Budget and of course, all the documents will be available for continuous review on the state website ‘.
Governor Diri also reminded the participants in the Conference of the uneviable role and urgency of their task in shaping the state budget, ‘indeed, in reviewing and approving the annual state budget, you play the vital role of guaranteeing that we apportion our resources sensibly and in accordance with our shared vision and values, with a view toward helping all citizens thrive and proper ,in a sustainable manner ‘
Stakeholders at the conference lauded governor Diri’s initiative of citizens’ participation in the budget. They said the move would aid budget implementation and curb wastage usually associated with budgets.
Indeed, in a state that is in dire need of development, it is gratifying to note that the governor has opened up the budgetary process to all stakeholders. It is the demonstration of the governor’s conscious effort to make best standards as the hallmark of his government to engender rapid development of the state.
Governor Diri has demonstrated that the state government has a lot to lose by making budget process opaque, rather it stands to harvest bountifully from contributions of stakeholders.
Since It is in the overall interest and development of the state to obtain viable comments, views and inputs from stakeholders before the 2021 draft budget estimate is transmitted to the Bayelsa State House of Assembly for consideration, the action of the Governor is a bracing reminder that he will uphold transparency as the foundation of his administration, which has been adjudged as one of the ingredients to compel accelerated development of the state.
*Oweifighe, a civil servant, wrote from Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.