The Center for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) with support from ActionAid International Nigeria is implementing Strengthening Community Engagement in Electoral Process (SCEEP) project with a view to enlightening and educating communities to participate in governance processes especially the budget as a tool that defines the development agenda of government. An open and participatory budget ensures that communities are carried along in all areas and processes while its provisions represent the needs and aspirations of the people. Such a process provides room for citizens to make input, track and monitor implementation of the budget in their respective communities and provide feedback to the relevant institutions and agencies of government for adjustment and reviews in order to suit citizens’ demands. Today’s Open Budget Forum is a continuation of the project’s series of awareness and enlightenment trainings and forums that started before the 2015 general elections in communities across Kano state.
Papers presented at the One Day Open Budget Forum are: Understanding the Concept of Open and Participatory Budget by Isah Garba of CITAD, Importance of Stakeholders Collaboration in Budget Process by Yunusa Hamza of Partnership to Engage, Reform and Learn (PERL), Role of CSOs and Community Members in Ensuring Successful Budget Implementation by Tayyib Isyaku Na’abba of Kano State Ministry of Budget and Planning and Analysis of Budgetary Allocation to SCEEP Communities by Kabiru Sa’idu Dakata of CITAD. The forum was attended by the representatives of Appropriation Committee of Kano State House of Assembly and Ministry of Budget and Planning, religious and traditional leaders, community members from Karaye, Kabo, Kano Municipal Council, Nasarawa, Gaya and Rano local governments, CSOs, Senior Special Adviser to Kano State Governor on Intercommunity Relations, Media, etc. Some of the observations and recommendations made are as follows:
- The yearly Public Hearing by Kano State House of Assembly needs to be extended for a longer period to allow for more inputs and broader participation. The present two days seems insufficient.
- Policemen at the entrance of Kano State House of Assembly normally deny people access to the legislature, therefore people hardly get to the assembly complex let alone give inputs.
- Most contractors operating in rural communities have no regard for the communities as such concerns raised by the communities are normally ignored even if they are important.
- Local governments should open up and let citizens participate in their planning and budgeting process.
- People Living with Disability presently do not have adequate channels to engage in most governance processes including the budget. The proposed board for PWDs should be constituted in such a way that they are made part and parcel so that their views will be projected.
- Lawmakers should undertake periodic visits and consultations with their constituents on important matters such as budget preparation.
- Assemblies normally deny citizens copies of the budget on the basis of not being passed into law while budget office also stop people from getting copies of the budget even though it may have been passed into law on the basis official confidentiality.
- Sometimes projects are designed and funds allocated but they don’t get implemented.
- Kano State Government should upload a soft copy of its yearly budget on a publicized website to allow more people access to the budgetary document.
- The Open Budget Forum should be held on a quarterly basis to provide a platform for continuous engagement between citizens and government institutions responsible for budgeting in the state. This would also serve as a platform to provide feedback on monitoring and tracking by citizens.
- Community needs should be pursued by different communities and given priority by the legislature.
- Community associations should form a coalition and speak with one voice so as to make the cause they pursue easier.
- The media should widely sensitize the public on the need to pay tax when due so that they can credibly hold their representatives accountable.
- Communities should maintain pressure especially on abandoned projects.
- Budget discussions or forums like this should be translated in local languages and strategies for engagement deployed that takes into consideration the literacy level of the people in the rural areas.
- Communities should utilize social media and other means available to voice their concerns to their elected representatives.