By Ekemini Simon
The Civil Resource Development and Documentation Centre, CIRDDOC has declared Akwa Ibom State top among six States of South-South region of Nigeria on Budget Transparency Index 2020 ranking.
This was made known by zonal Coordinator of CIRDDOC, Mr Odey James on Thursday, July 29, 2021 during the South-South launching of the 2020 Sub-national budget transparency survey performance report held in Uyo.
The Zonal Coordinator noted that among the South-South States, the result of their findings shows that there is significant improvement in budget transparency and participation.
He said Akwa Ibom State tops the chart with a score of 78 and the least State being Rivers with 34 points. The report also indicates that nationally, Akwa Ibom State is ranked 5th on the index.
James explained that when compared to the 2018 result, Bayelsa, Cross River, Rivers, Edo and Akwa Ibom improved in terms of budget transparency and participation while only Delta state dropped in their scores.
He added “In comparing the 2018 with the 2020 results, Delta State dropped from 82 points in 2018 to 49 points in 2020 which shows that their effort in publishing budget documents online was not sustained. Other States within the zone improved marginally in publishing some budget documents online.
“For example, all the States have their budget law, draft budget estimates and votes, quarterly reports produced and publicly available. Citizen’s budget was also produced and publicly available for all the States except Cross River and Rivers States that produced for internal use only because it was not published online at the same time with the executive’s budget proposal.”
The Zonal Coordinator pointed out that there was significant improvement in public participation in the budget process as Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Edo and Rivers States scored zero (0) in 2018 in public participation but in 2020, they had an average score of 32.8.
He noted that on public access to procurement information, only Akwa Ibom State improved in her rating from 2 points in 2018 to 31 points in 2020, Delta from 36 points to 47 points and Rivers from 22 in 2018 to 65 in 2020 while other State such as Bayelsa, Cross River and Edo dropped by an average of 16 points.
James recommended that states should develop plans to answer how transparency, accountability, and participation can help them achieve their macro-fiscal objectives and developmental priorities beyond SFTAS.
The Zonal Coordinator insisted that 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.
He added “States should institute clear rules and establish budget calendars to ensure timely publication of budget documents and in accessible formats. Budget calendars ought to be expanded to indicate clear dates as to when all budget documents, including citizen’s budgets, should be published to ensure civil society involvement in the budget process.
“State Governors, members in State House of Assemblies, and Auditors-General should continue and expand public engagement during the budget process to citizens as a means to build effective public management, particularly during times of crises.”
The Zonal Coordinator pointed out that while most State executives have established mechanisms to solicit input during the formulation of the budget, spaces to solicit the public’s input during budget execution are still lacking thus advised that members of State House of Assembly need to be proactive in inviting the broader public and sector-specific Civil Society Organisations during budget hearings and provide spaces for public input.
James said Bureaus of Public Procurement should build on existing efforts for open and competitive contract bidding and implement laws for more robust, transparent award selection and implementation processes for improved service delivery.
He added that they should also establish procurement councils with representation of both Civil Society and the private sector; establish and/or improve the robustness of alternative dispute mechanisms, including a complaint review body; and publish awarded contracts with justifications, award amount, and actual payments made to contractors (percentage of award amount).
The Zonal Coordinator further charged State Houses of Assembly to seek expertise and strengthen their role throughout the budget process stressing that budget oversight should be improved by scrutinising budget execution, audit reports and also inquiring about budget deviations.
He insisted that State House of Assembly can strengthen their Public Financial Management (PFM) systems by approving the constitutional amendment necessary for the implementation of the budget process and regulatory framework bill and independence of the state Auditor-Generals.