By YUSUF ISHAKU GOJE
It is no longer news that Kaduna State government has signed up to the Open Government Partnership (OGP). For those that have followed up with or actively participated in the OGP driven reforms, it is common knowledge that one of the key commitments out of the five adopted in the ended state action plan (SAP, 2018-2020), is commitment one on open budget.
The commitment on open budget seeks to ensure more effective citizen’s participation in the entire budget cycle. Also, in the ended action-plan, the rationale given for the commitment is to – “make budget information available and accessible to all citizens in a timely manner and usable format, this improves accountability on the part of the government, provides openness and transparency in the budget process and ensures that citizens are engaged throughout the budget cycle thereby increasing trust in government, and governance process.”
Furthermore, one of the milestones agreed and captured under the commitment in the just ended SAP is to develop a framework for citizens to effectively prioritize their needs through the Community Development Charter (CDC). Also, a key performance indicator (KPI) that was set to be delivered is “a bill on the CDC drafted and tabled before the House of Assembly.”
Commendably, the framework, which is the CDC, has already been developed to capture the prioritized needs of the citizens that should inform the annual budget. So far, it has only been adopted consistently for about three years now in the local government budget formulation process. Furthermore, a CDC desk officer, one of the milestone agreed and delivered on so far, has been appointed under the Department of Planning in the State Planning & Budget Commission.
On the flip side, however, till date we are yet to get hold of evidence that the CDC has informed the State government budget. Many attempts have been made for the adoption of the CDCs into the State budget. The CDCs were prioritized and generated by communities with support from the civil society and development partners across the 23 local government areas.
An equally important performance indicator missed is that a bill is yet to be presented to the Assembly on the CDC up until the end of the two-year cycle of the SAP (2018-2020) implementation. However, all hope is not lost, as the Executive can still explore the good working relationship and the speed with which the State House of Assembly is known for passing executive bills to amend a relevant law in this regard.
In view of this, it will only be appropriate for the Executive arm to forward the Kaduna State Fiscal Responsibility amendment bill, rather than a totally new one, to provide the legality for the institutionalization of participatory budgeting through the instrumentality of the CDC process in the State. At present, the current Fiscal Responsibility Law (2016) in the State only provides for stakeholders’ consultation in the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) development process in Section 18 (2.a,b,c). Aside this, there is no other provision that empowers the citizens to effectively participate in the entire budget cycle as envisaged by commitment one of the OGP state action-plan.
This proposed amendment will go a long way in institutionalizing some of the reforms championed by the State government. Without doubt, this will surely build Citizen’s confidence and trust in the government and enhance ownership of the governance process. It will also give more practical meaning to the government’s mantra of ‘Putting People First’.
Another amendment we are proposing is on Section 5 as regards the Functions of the Commission by replicating Section 2 of the Federal Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007, which states that: 1. For the purpose of performing it’s functions under the Act, the Commission shall have powers to – a. compel any person or government institution to disclose information relating to public revenue and expenditure; and
b. cause an investigation into whether any person has violated any provision of this Act.
Unlike the present version of the Law in the State, which is not clear on enforcement, the amendment will explicitly give the Commission the powers to effectively monitor and enforce the provisions of the law. Furthermore, the Commission should also be empowered to mandate relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to make public in a timely and usable format vital budget documents.
Some of the documents as recommended by the International Budget Partnership (IBP) that should consistently be made public by the State government are: Pre-Budget Statement, Executive’s Budget Proposal, Enacted Budget, In-Year Reports, Mid-Year Review, Year-End Report, Audit Report and Citizen’s Budget. It is heartwarming, to note that the State government has over the years proactively disclosed many of the above-listed documents. However, including it as part of the amendments we are proposing will ensure that all relevant budget documents are made public timely, in a usable format and it is sustained.
Another important addition, should be setting a timeframe for the appointment of the members of the board, to avoid having vacant positions for long periods. It should further emphasize and ensure that the civil society representative on the board is actively engaged in the civic space (for a specified period of time) and fully resident in the Kaduna state.
In conclusion, if and when the above proposed amendments and other stakeholder’s inputs to the Fiscal Responsibility Law 2016 is considered and delivered by both the Executive and Legislative arm of government in the State, it will go a long way to strengthen citizen’s participation, fiscal discipline, performance, sustainability and improve overall quality of service delivery in Kaduna State. It will also enable the effective implementation of key commitments under the second OGP Kaduna state action plan.