A civic organization that facilitates societal change through technology, BudgIT, on Tuesday lamented the continued budget secrecy by state governments in Nigeria, by failing to publish their 2019 spending plans.
So far, 12 Nigerian state governments, including Lagos, the country’s commercial capital, BudgIT said, is yet to make its budget public, despite the $750m incentive provided by the World Bank to encourage public finance transparency in the country.
Others yet to publish details of their 2019 budget online, as of June 3, 2019, according to Shakir Akorede, Communications Associate at BudgIT, are: Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Ebonyi, Imo, Nasarawa, Oyo, Rivers, Sokoto and Zamfara, while Kwara State’s budget “went missing on its website immediately after the recent transition.
Following eight months of painstaking research, BudgIT said the assessment of the availability of public finance documents in state government domains reveals that only 25 states’ approved budgets are available online, a few of which are summarized scanned documents.
This, BudgIT said, “contravenes the ideals of openness and transparency in the management of public resources, which is the requisite guideline for the World Bank’s State Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability (SFTAS) programme, a product of mutual agreement between the financial institution and the Federal Government to strengthen fiscal transparency, accountability and sustainability in Nigerian states as a means to turbo-charge their revenue base, increase fiscal efficiency in public expenditure while reducing debt overhangs.”
To partake in the project, all the 36 state governments, BudgIT recalled, “submitted written expressions of interest, commenced late 2018 after the endorsement by the National Economic Council in March. It is shocking that any state would jettison the offer of a programme that was informed by serious fiscal challenges faced by states, the majority of which are still unable to pay workers’ salaries and pensions.”
Worse still, the statement emphasised, Imo, Zamfara and Sokoto states have not published their budget documents since 2017.
On its part, Lagos State provides only a thumbnail of its budget and has a history of notoriously resisting attempts to uncover its financial dealings, thereby embedding corruption, BudgIT stressed.
BudgIt however assured that it will not be deterred or “give in on its advocacy for transparency and accountability in Nigeria.”
Instead, BudgIT, in the words of Gabriel Okeowo, its Principal Lead, “look more critically at the proactiveness in the disclosure of financial information by Nigerian states as well as their compliance with the Freedom of Information Act.”
He, however, commended the many other states that have made their full budget documents public, urging them to always publish those documents within a reasonable timeframe in an accessible format.
This, it continued, is pivotal in enabling citizens engage legislators during budget debates, just as it challenged states with partially detailed budget documents in public domains to provide details of capital projects being executed for the fiscal year.