Professionals in legislative affairs, say Nigeria cannot be regarded as rich country but resource endowed country as most of the financial and human resources have not translated to the improved well-being of citizenry and socio-economic development of the country.
The stakeholders who spoke at the one-day workshop on ‘Reforming the budget process in Nigeria’, held at the instance of National Institute of Legislative Studies (NILS) in Abuja, harped on the need for enactment of ‘consolidated organic budgetary legislative framework’ that will address various challenges facing the current socio-economic challenges bedeviling the country.
In her keynote address on ‘the role of the Parliament in facilitating the budget process’, Ladi Hamalai, NILS Director General explained that the involvement of the parliament was to “counter balance Executive dominance, broaden the budget process to capture wide array of interests to include opposition parties and constituencies; legitimize the budget process and ensure effective implementation through oversight roles.”
“Although the government budget is a very important tool of economic management and promoting growth and development, it has not met the expectations of improved service delivery and development in Nigeria, unlike in most other countries.
“This situation has given rise to the compelling need for a comprehensive reform of the budget process to address the various flaws and challenges bedeviling the nation’s budgeting system in tandem with the current dynamics,” Hamalai stressed.
While expressing concern over the absymal low implementation of the capital expenditure, she noted that the overhead component of the annual budget are fully implemented.
In the bid to ensure full implementation of the country’s budget, Hamalai underscored the need link Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) with the budget.
She however noted that the Technical Committee on Budget Reforms inaugurated by the Senator President, was mandated to “produce a budget reform strategy paper and draft reform bill to review relevant laws and literature on budget reform, develop a detailed paper covering the challenges and opportunities in the budge process entailing preparation, enactment and implementation as well ad draft a budget reform bill.”
Other weaknesses of Nigeria’s budgeting process identified by Hamalai include: abundant leakages in capital implementation translates into erosion of resources and inability to complete projects and programmed and even when completed, quality challenges deplete performance; too wide gap between budget estimates and revenue base thus budgets are unimplemented; considerable revenues remain unremitted and at times unreported; volatility of revenue base disturbing due to over-reliance on oil; oversight and evaluation reports are not followed through; lack of constituency in development planning and none or weak link between development plans and annual budgets resulting in poor development outcomes, among others.
On his part, Shuaibu Danwanka, Deputy Director, Bills and Legislative Drafting for NILS who observed that the proposed budgetary process bill initiated by the National Assembly when passed into law will help in addressing the imminent deficiencies in the extant legislations and other statutory instruments including the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007 and the 1999 Constitution which gives the President the prerogative to lay the budget estimate before the National Assembly.
Also speaking, Dr. Asimiyu Abiola, Coordinator of NILS Post Graduate programmes, also underscored the need to put in place implementable development plan, outcome based budgeting system, and reduce the domestic borrowing in order not to crowd out domestic investors.
While decrying the current budgeting process in which the annual budget was passed without concluding negotiations on external borrowing with Development Partners, Abiola assured that the National Assembly Budget and Research Office (NABRO) when give legal backing will provide solution to critical challenges facing the country’s budgeting system.
In his intervention, Adeyemi Fajingbesi, Director Research and Training for NILS, urged National Assembly to expedite action on the organic law on budget reform drafted by the Institute, just as he called for implementation of Economic Recovery Development and Growth Plan initiated by the present administration, against previous ones that were jettisoned by successive administrations.
KEHINDE AKINTOLA, Abuja