Date Published: 05/11/10
THE NEED FOR CLOSE MONITORING AND FULL IMPLEMENTATION OF 2010 BUDGET. By COMRADE AMEH MONDAY
To appreciate the importance of budgeting in an economy, it is pertinent for us to have a grasp of what budgeting means. According to the New Webster’s Dictionary of the English Language International Edition, “budget is a written statement of money: where it is drawn from, its amount, how it is to be spent, the annual estimate of revenue and expenditure for governing a country, fixing the level of taxation until the next budget”…
From the above definition, it is obvious that budget is very important to every nation, as it spells out in definite terms; how, where and when money accruing to its coffers is disbursed for the smooth running of governmental business and execution of policies that affect the lives of the citizenry.
A budget is important to every individual because it focuses not only on goal setting but facilitates the means of accomplishing such goals. The success or failure of any set goal by either an individual or government depends on how well planned or faulty a particular budget proposal is.
One of the recurring problems that have bedeviled Nigeria since the advent of democracy in 1999 has been the delay in the passage of the budget as well as inadequate monitoring and haphazard implementation by the executive on the one hand and the legislature on the other hand.
It would be recalled that the 2010 budget witnessed initial delay as a result of the superiority contest between the Senate and House of Representative over who should chair the Constitutional Amendment Review Committee, as both chambers could not agree on a venue to enable late President Yar’Adua lay the budget before them as required by tradition. The nation was in this dilemma until eventually, the President caused his Special Adviser on National Assembly, Senator Mohammed Abba-Aji to lay the budget before the two chambers of National Assembly separately, and the first in history of the nation’s democratic dispensation.
Similarly, the 2008 budget experienced the same scenario following the crisis that rocked the House of Representative under the erstwhile Speaker’s (Olubunmi Etteh) involvement in the house renovation scam. The 2008 budget presentation was delayed until it was eventually presented to the two chambers on November 8, 2007 by Mr. President. The budget in question was eventually signed into law on the 14 th April, 2008. Year-in year-out, the story has always been the same despite assurances of early passage by the lawmakers.
The eventual signing into law of the 2010 budget on the 22nd April, 2010 by the President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan is symbolic as this is the first time in our history as a nation that an Acting President will assent to the budget.
The total estimate assented to by Dr. Goodluck is N4.6 trillion with a deficit of N1.52 trillion or 4.66 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The 2010 budget is predicated on crude oil production of 2.35 million barrels per day at an average crude oil price of $67 per barrel with a foreign exchange rate at N150 to a dollar.
The 2010 budget to say the least, is very crucial to the development of our nation, one cannot but agree with the then Acting President when he said “it is with a deep sense of responsibility that I sign the 2010 budget so that this appropriated expenditure may be rapidly utilized to accelerate initiatives to enhance the pace of development of our nation”
In view of this, there is just no time to waste as the first quarter of the year has gone and the lifespan of this administration is barely one year away. Ultimately all impediments and encumbrances that will affect the immediate release of allocation to MDAs (Ministries, Departments and Agencies) should be addressed without delay.
Nigerians are waiting patiently for the dividends of democracy this administration promised through its fulcrum seven point’s agenda from inception on “critical infrastructure in terms of power, efficient transport system, food security and wealth creation, enhanced education and healthcare services, physical security and access to justice, sustainable economic development and political empowerment, security and development of the Niger Delta”
Meanwhile, it is heart warming to note that the President emphasized on monitoring the deliverable by MDAs by tracking the outcomes and outputs they achieve with the financial and other resources appropriated in the budget, over which they have stewardship. Consequently, He said the Office of the Minister for Special Duties will be structured and empowered to undertake the task of monitoring and evaluation of all government projects and activities.
One cannot but salute Mr. President for this innovation, as this will go a long way to enthrone the culture of probity, transparency and accountability in governance.
As a matter of urgency, it is crucial to block all the loop- holes now rather than waiting until funds meant to ameliorate the sufferings of Nigerians as well as for development are siphoned, embezzled and mopped up by the economic saboteurs before acting.
A very good example is the cancellation by the Senate Committee on Aviation of the N63.58 billion Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja, second runway contract by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN). The action of the lawmakers has to a large extent saved a huge sum of money for government considering the fact that states like Delta and Gombe built a brand new Airport for even lesser amounts.
The setting up of panels of enquiry by the lawmakers to investigate anyone or any government agency after the deed has been done as witnessed during the power probe by the House of Representative was belated and retrogressive as revelations that emanated from the probe were mouth boggling and shocking as very huge amount of money was embezzled and diverted to private pocket while the power sector continues to wobble.
While one is not in any way against any form of probe by the lawmakers as it is their constitutional responsibility, it is pertinent to note that digging into the past is very cumbersome, time consuming and depletes government resources. It might also adversely affect the capability of the lawmakers in making quality laws for the good governance of the people of Nigeria.
The Ministry of Finance under Dr. Olusegun Aganga which is statutorily saddled with the responsibility of disbursement of appropriated funds in collaboration with Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Budget Office should on a monthly basis publish the details of allocation to the State and Local Governments as well as the MDAs at the Federal level to enable Nigerians monitor and scrutinize the implementation of the budget as was done during the tenure of his predecessor, Dr. (Mrs.) Ngozi Okonjo Iweala. This will indeed, go a long way in curbing the embezzlement of public funds and corruption in our nation.
The various arms and levels of government and their agencies should equally render to Nigerians their financial records for public scrutiny. This will in no doubt promote transparency, accountability and probity in our country.
It is indeed common knowledge that there are cliques of Nigerians who wait on the budget of their Local Council or State Government to ‘partake’ in the sharing of national cake leaving such Councils or States with peanuts to attend to the pressing needs of their people. If there is a regime of water-tight monitoring of budget implementation process, no Local Government Chairman or State Governor will dare share their budget with either their god-fathers or god-mothers as the case may be, as doing so will be at their peril.
The ICPC, EFCC, the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, Ministry of Finance as well as the Office of the Auditor General for the Federation should also closely keep their eyes on the manner and ways funds are disbursed and spent to ensure that the budget is fully implemented to the latter, considering the fact that we are approaching election period so as to prevent public officers contesting any elective position from tampering with our common purse.
The media as the fourth estate of the realms has a critical role to play in monitoring the implementation of the budget through the instrumentality of investigative journalism, by giving updates on the budget from the disbursement stage to the execution point.
The civil societies should also serve as ‘whistle blowers’ to expose anyone who tries to divert public funds under his/her care. This is a major reason why the Freedom of Information Bill should be passed into law.
At this juncture, it is pertinent to state that the area of disagreement in the budget, pointed out by the executive which could have delayed the signing into law of the budget, the lawmakers should correct the anomalies as promised in the supplementary budget.
Meanwhile, preparation for 2011 budget should commence in earnest to avoid the past experiences. The executive arm of government should henceforth, carry the lawmakers along in the process of formulation and preparation of the national budget. This would give them a participatory opportunity where all the grey areas would be thrashed out from the onset.
Accordingly, this will help to curtail the usual rancours and controversies which normally trail the passage and signing into law of the budget by the legislature and the executive.
The lawmakers and executive should endeavour to break the jinx that has characterized the nation’s annual budget since the return to democracy in May 1999.
Prior to this time, Nigerians heard the nation’s budget through a presidential broadcast on New Year Day where they stay glued to their radio and television sets to listen to the budget estimates for the year by the military.
It has thus, become imperative for the lawmakers and the executive to take steps and prove to Nigerians that the nation’s budget can be ready for enactment into law and promulgated on the 1 st January of every fiscal year in a democratic dispensation.
Finally, it is my candid advice that Mr. President should ensure that the N4.6 trillion he signed into law is fully implemented for the benefit of all Nigerians and for the progress and development of our dear nation.
COMRADE AMEH MONDAY
IS A POLITICAL SCIENCE STUDENT,
UNIVERSITY OF ABUJA, NIGERIA
AND A PUBLIC AFFAIRS ANALYST.
P.M.B 535 GARKI, ABUJA