One attribute of a good budget is that it must be specific on the location of any item proposed. If the government wants to ensure transparency, it should be more specific on the location of its proposed
By KODILINYE Obiagwu
THE Enugu State Government has been praised for adopting healthy budgetary practices that will enhance transparency and citizen participation in governance.
At a public presentation of the 2015-2017 Budget Implementation Monitoring Report in Enugu by Advocacy Partnership for Good Governance (APAGG), in collaboration with Christian Aid, Ukaid, the state was also flayed for delimiting the monitoring and assessing of its budgets.
At the presentation Monday, a lecturer and development consultant at the Institute for Development Studies, University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus Dr. Uzochukwu Amakom, applauded the state government for uploading its budgets online and making it available.
He said, “any government that has opened up on the level of transparency and accountability is ready for development, because we want citizen participation in governance.”
The Project Manager of APAGG, Mr. Martins Onyebuchi explained that the presentation is the outcome “from our tour of the South East states to assess the implementation of different stages of their budgets in the last three years, 2015 to 2017. We didn’t look at the 2018 budget, because its implementation is ongoing.
“Measuring the level of implementation of the budget is our way of gauging performance of the states in terms of actual development. It offered an opportunity to know the difference between what the governments promised and what they delivered. Citizens and stakeholders at different levels also will know if they have been shortchanged or otherwise in spite of claims by their governments in the media.
“From what we monitored in terms of what the states proposed and what they implemented, we scored them 70 per cent.”
Explaining further, Dr. Amakom said, “the confidence of the citizenry in their government is raised when they know that projects in the budget are implemented. Again, it doesn’t make sense to propose projects without checking whether they have been executed. This is the reason there are so many abandoned projects in the states and in the country.”
Despite the level of implementation, APAGG decried the lumping of projects in various sectors in Enugu, which makes it difficult to monitor such projects.
According to Amakom, “actually it is difficult to assess a budget unless you have a holistic view of the entire budget. We didn’t have access to every project in the budget in Enugu. The way the budgets are prepared didn’t give us a total access to the contents, because of lumping.
“We discovered that those projects that attract the lion share of the budget are lumped. For example, N10 billion could be allocated for urban and rural roads without any specifics regarding the particular roads and cost.”
He noted also that a recurring question on the budget implementation was the repetition and carrying over of projects in the budgets. “Some projects were repeated in the three budgets that it becomes difficult to know why they were never implemented,” he said.
Indicting the Legislature on Oversight
ADVOCATING that “communities, groups of stakeholders or even individuals have the right to monitor the budget,” Amakom faulted the state legislature on ignoring “the main function of legislature, which is oversight. We have done their work for them and this means that representation, which is one of their functions has not been done well. They pass the budgets every year and they see for example the repetitions. Don’t they wonder why they are not implemented?
“It is a big issue when the legislature becomes an appendage of the Executive. Maybe, there will be an improvement from next year when they become financially independent and less dependent on the Executive.”
“We monitored the activities in five main sectors, agriculture, education, health, works and infrastructure, water and sanitation. We believe these sectors are key to the alleviation of the poor condition of the people, and the development of the Enugu State.
“We saw that a substantial number of projects have been completed and put to use, some are completed but not functional, some are uncompleted, while others are abandoned. But those in use are more in number.
“The important thing is to have things done and not to pack the place with projects most of which will not be completed thereby reducing the percentage of success of the budget.”
“In the health sector, the projects were lumped, just like in works and infrastructure where urban and rural road project were lumped. It is difficult to assess the level of success in these sectors.”
Onyebuchi noted that “the lumping of projects was a major handicap for monitors and it limited the value of transparency in the implementation of the budget.
“In the education sector, they proposed to construct, renovate schools, but the problem is that they didn’t specify the communities where these projects will be carried out. So it is impossible to monitor the performance there.
“One attribute of a good budget is that it must be specific on the location of any item proposed. If the government wants to ensure transparency, it should be more specific on the location of its proposed projects.”