Taming the Monster in the #Nigeria Budget System

Oludotun Babayemi December 27, 2016 1

The most important factor for economic development is not capital, but appropriate policies and institutions

If Nigeria’s population is the 7th largest in the world, and we really, want to grow, then we must not be doing 7.29 trillion Naira, as our budget (Just before you say, it’s only the federal budget, even if you average what the state, and local government present, as budget, it is still not worth it). That’s a paltry 23.9 billion dollars, see below, what the top 10 countries with the highest population, budget for their citizens, at the “federal” level. Coming down home to Africa, Angola with a population of  25 million, has a budget of 38.53 billion dollars. I will advise we start thinking about reducing our population growth – 2 per woman will be most reasonable, at this time, if we “really” want to grow! Japan has done it before, and I am saying, there is no reason why we cannot grow within this top 10 populated countries, it will take time, but we must be decisive, and serious!

2015 budget estimates for other countries are from the Central Intelligence Agency World Fact Book. The Nigeria Budget estimate is the 2017 proposed figure in the appropriation bill

2015 budget estimates for other countries are from the Central Intelligence Agency World Fact Book. The Nigeria Budget estimate is the 2017 proposed figure in the appropriation bill.

In the breakdown of the Nigeria 2017 budget, it is expected that only 30.7% will be available for the provision of basic amenities and infrastructures – health facilities, schools, roads, water, while about 40% will be provided for overhead expenses – salaries, travels, office expenses et al. The success of any business in the world lies in its people, and I also mean PEOPLE working in the various government institutions – executive, legislature and judiciary. Ideally, their business is to implement government agenda, policies, projects and programme, but in Nigeria, their performance is appalling. Although this sector employs a larger percentage of employed people, the numbers cannot account for the value it can create. Just as the numbers of ministries were reduced by the Buhari led government, can it also “significantly” reduce the number of people in the public sector, so as to reduce overhead expenses to 20% of the government budget. All Joe Abbah, and the bureau of public service reforms need do, to perform effectively, is to embrace technology and uphold strict staff performance management (and just before you will say, where should the retrenched go – read my blog, on the rice economy or get to the last paragraph). In Nigeria, most people in the public service which comprise of the executive, legislative, and judiciary in federal, state and local government, got to the position, in the spirit of “clientelism”. “They have just finished recruiting in the Nigeria Police, but leave story, they only chose senators, house of reps families and you know the oga at the tops people” affirmed my friend in the Nigeria Police. This needs to stop if we really want to grow!

Many developed and developing countries are still working towards linking performance to public expenditures framework or strategy. If these linkages are not made, there will be no way to determine if the budgetary allocations that the support programs are ultimately supporting are successful. On a lighter mood, I must thank the Budget Office for publishing actual money received by government agencies for capital expenditures (actually there is an open data version of it here), but we should not be thankful for seeing that except, we want to stay like Angola, if we want to grow like Malaysia, we should be publishing tangible outcomes the expenditures in the agencies are achieving. In essence, we should stop the line – item kind of budgeting, and adopt the result-based budgeting system. For instance, if Nigeria needs to produce the 4,700,000 million tonnes of rice, that china imports every year, the Ministry of Budget and National Planning can have an overhead budget from the Ministry of Agriculture for only the number of people that will implement that through a policy paper, coordination and regulation, as they will not be the one to work on the farm. Simple as ABC right? yes! but do you have the political will – (To be continued) in my other story on Nigeria and its National Planning.

 

 

 

Proactive Vigilance: How Citizens can hold their government accountable

Oludotun Babayemi July 18, 2016 1147

“Abeg, you cannot come and fix a programme that will start at 8 am on a Saturday morning, I will not be able to attend, please postpone it for another day or cancel it” responded Ijiwere to her colleagues, who wanted to visit another friend; “Let me tell you, If you want me to come for that ‘owambe’ party on Saturday, then you should let it start at 10 am” affirmed Giringori, to his friends who were planning an event for Saturday.

“Imagine, those my friend wanted to suggest 8 am as a time for that party, I totally disagreed, and told them Jigida will be aired on radio at that time, and that is the only way I can report the lack of water in Kagara” said Giringori to his elder brother – Ijiwere.

These are the kind of conversations that go on in Kagara community, with everyone looking forward to Jigida, a weekly, one – hour radio programme that allows for citizens to call – in and express their community needs, which afterwards are been documented and sent to the various local government chairmen, and State House of Representative for response and decisions to be made. That’s not all, the first 30 mins of the programme is dedicated to the Councillor of the community sharing with the community, how much and what they will be spending on in the week. This is what proactive vigilance is all about!

Although proactive vigilance or public participation in budgeting or government spending is relatively new, the evidence attesting to its impact on resource allocation and service delivery is growing. Many of the existing findings are based on the well-known Brazilian experience with participatory budgeting, established first in Porte Alegre in 1989, and now replicated in over 40 countries around the world. Nigeria, is not left out as well, as its government hopes to encourage citizen participation, with its recent commitment to joining the Open Government Partnership, a multilateral initiative that aims to secure concrete commitments from governments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance.

You might be wondering, how many – landlord associations,vigilante groups, market women associations, community development associations, we have in rural communities. A lot of them! When are we going to start having “project vigilante” in rural communities, that will become voices of several communities, because by the time you wake up tomorrow morning, the news will be agog with “one billion dollars  to be released to provide water in Kagara” only to go to Kagara after one year, you will find out that Kagara has no water source or a broken water source. Quite pathetic, and that’s is the way we are – the leaders and followers.

Nevertheless, I am excited that the Story Story writers at BBC Media Action are focusing on how citizens at the local government level, can be proactively vigilant on such issues of government spending in their communities, and I recently had some hours of session brainstorming with the crew, on how citizens can become vigilant themselves, I hope all will be reflected in their popular radio drama coming up sometimes in fall. Thanks to Nkem, our Reseach Lead on government finance, who took some notes on the highlights, and I have added them below:

Follow The Money

Citizens can at every stage of this budget cycle engage their various government, but limited participation is expected during during formulation

  1. There is the local government or state government budget, a document that highlights government spending and revenue which can be for a financial year, or a multiyear.
  2. The Budget has its on cycle starting from formulation (when Ministry, Department, Agencies, put together their budget), to enactment (when the national or state legislative arm assent to the budget), to implementation (the stage at which contractors start executing projects in your communities), and lastly, the assessment stage (where everyone assesses the implementation of the budget, to provide feedback on how the next stage should look like)
  3. At every stage of the budget, citizens can make noise about their plight, and join in the conversation. They can form themselves as vigilante group or association, and always knock on the door of their  local government officer or Councillor.
  4. They can forward a freedom of information request letter to the local government chairman to request for their budget immediately it passes the enactment stage, and even ask more question like who is the contractor, what is the work plan for the project, how much is the contractor getting, and when will the project be concluded. Here is an example of a freedom of information letter if you want to write one
  5. Government at the local government and state government level should starting providing platforms as well, for the assesement stage. E.g. using local radio programmes like Jigida, create a referendum mechanism for your local government area for people to have their say on projects proposed for next financial year. It should not be only during elections, that citizens see chairmen of local government or governors of states canvassing for votes.
  6. Like I always say, the budget is not only the means by which government declare their spending, in fact 50% – 60% of what’s on it might not be relevant. The other way is to always listen to the state news on your local radio, projects will be announced at all times, especially when they are project funded by other partners, such as the federal government or international donor agencies.

Ijiwere and Giringori have decided to do away with social gatherings, and focus on becoming a vigilante for community projects in Jigida, and if you are reading this, you should be towing same way, and you should share this piece. I look forward to the final drama series on this – If you have listened to Story Story, Voices from the Market program, then you should be more expectant. See you all in Kagara town, listening to Jigida on radio!  

From left, Oludotun Babayemi, Nkem and the BBC Media Action Writers

                                                                                From left, Oludotun Babayemi, Nkem and the BBC Media Action Writers