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.

 

 

 

The Future We See Through the Open Government Partnership in #Nigeria

Oludotun Babayemi October 25, 2016 0

“Amongst the 70 member countries of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), African countries has the most ambitious commitments, and also has the least number of implementations of their commitment as seen in the independent reporting mechanism but Nigeria can reverse that order as the country has made huge commitment at the London Corruption Summit and hopes to make it tandem with its anti-corruption campaign in the country” says Sanjay Pradhan during the first day of the OGP retreat in Nigeria on October 24, 2016 at the Hotel Seventeen in Kaduna .

The OGP CEO, Sanjay Pradhan making a presentation on OGP

The OGP CEO, Sanjay Pradhan making a presentation on OGP during the retreat in Nigeria

Looking at the panel to discuss commitments around the Nigeria OGP National Action Plan, I was deluded by the fact that the government representatives except for two, were not appropriate enough to discuss pertinent issues around beneficial ownership, open budget, open contracting,  transparency in extractives, access to information, and open data.  I quite  understand that the people in authority, in this ministries are hard to get for such conversation, but if it were really a “government – driven initiative” we should be seeing them coming to talk about these issues in the public.

I would have expected to see Zainab Ahmed, the Minister of State, Budget and National Planning making commitments of publishing online, location – based infrastructure data with their baseline indicators (current state) to the public by December 2017, so this can aid better planning; also the out-spoken Funmi Adeosun, the Minister for Finance committing that “detailed” government spending will be made available to the public by default as from November 2017, and also that the Bureau of Public Procurement will upgrade their website to include procurement plans, tender notices, bid evaluation,contract award documents, and termination information, while connecting it to a citizen feedback platform that can help make sure projects are really been implemented by contractors.

Nevertheless, there were some takeaways from the panel Joe Abbah, of the Bureau of Public Service Reforms had stated that by 2019, all FOIA request will be responded to in 2 minutes! In – fact, they have started something that looks like that in the Bureau, if you want to request for an information from the government, [APPLY HERE] I am sure you are all looking forward to this, it might not be rocket science! Also, the representative from the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) mentioned that for beneficial ownership to work, the Corporate Affairs Commission and the Companies and Allied Matter Act must be amended immediately to disclose beneficial ownership of companies, and not just the publishing of company names that are registered with the CAC which anyways, is a step in the right direction.

Looking across the Panel of government + CSOs

Looking across the Panel of government + CSOs

But why does it take the government a longer time than the 7 days proposed in the law to get a response to an FOIA request, the representative from the Ministry of Budget and National Planning stated that the oath of secrecy signed by civil servants prevents most of them to disclose information requested for through the FOIA. That’s so unimaginable! However, Joe Abbah, stated clearly, that we need to amend the public service rules because civil servants abide by rules and not laws!

My worry is not that leadership in the executive arm of government would not come out and make commitments, my worry is that implementing such commitment on the basis of a system that would not allow it to work efficiently is the reality, and such is the case for most African countries. As much as this becomes a drawback for me in this “government – CSO “driven movement, I am certain that few positives might be recorded, as we have started seeing from the Ministry of Justice, the agent of the state where the OGP is domiciled in Nigeria.