By Sagiru Ado.
In continuous efforts to strengthen citizens’ engagement with relevant stakeholders on budgetary processes and improve service delivery in the state, the Center for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) in collaboration with Partnership to Engage, Reform and Learn (PERL) has on Thursday 29th March, 2018 organized the fifth round of the quarterly Budget Forum. The forum was organized to discuss the roles of citizens’ in monitoring and tracking the implementation of budgetary provisions as it affects their communities. The meeting was part of the Strengthening Community Engagement in Electoral Process (SCEEP) project CITAD has been implementing with support from DFID through ActionAid Nigeria. The meeting took place at Chilla luxury Suites, Kano and attended by members of different Civil Society Organizations and SCEEP communities from six local government areas of Kano state.
Stating the objectives of the meeting, the Program Coordinator of CITAD, Malam Isyaku Garba said that the budget forum was about enhancing transparency and accountability and fostering people’s participation in governance by demystifying government budgets as increasingly, people across the country are keen to understand and participate meaningfully in discussion on government budgets. He added that the forum was another way of improving governance through budget transparency, as we all know that democracy is about participation. In first stage citizens are allowed to participate in the election processes, they select or elect a candidate of their choice to represent them. Since it is a representation there is need for consultation on issues affecting them, he said.
In his presentation titled ‘The Role of Citizens in Budget Implementation Stage’ the Deputy Director Budget, Ministry of Planning and Budget, Kano Sate, Alh. Yakubu A Sabi’u said that Citizens and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) play an important role in public budgeting. They can help improve budget policies by providing information on public needs and priorities through their engagement with citizens groups, communities and sectors CSOs together with legislators, the media and the broader public. They also play serious role in holding they executive accountable for how they use public resources. Finally, he assured the participants that engagement with CSOs/Media and public contribute immensely toward achieving success in the Public Financial Management Reform. He then feared that limited access to budget information or opportunities to engage in budget processes, opens a door for the politicians to choose unpopular or inappropriate programs that will waste public resources and funds.
After brief highlights on the previous budget forums by Malam Ibrahim B. Garba of Partnership to Engage, Reform and Learn (PERL) the six SCEEP local governments were given chance to state the approved projects identified in Kano State 2018 budget in their communities. As next line of action the meeting agreed as follows:
- The SCEEP local governments should expand what they learned during their engagement with CITAD to other neighboring local governments.
- Efforts should be made to guarantee the freedom of information at the local government level in order to know what is happening especially release of funds
- The capacity of local councils (Councilors and Chairmen) should be built on budget formulation
- The local government autonomy bill is now pending at the state house of assembly, we must ensure that the bill is passed and assigned in order to strengthen the democracy at the grassroots level
- Ministries lack the capacity to make request and prepare memo, CSOs should develop their capacity in order to know how to make request.
In his closing remarks, Malam Ibrahim B. Garba of Partnership to Engage, Reform and Learn (PERL) said that the development partners are not here forever, we have to institutionalize and take the ownership of those development projects including the budget tracking. He said that PERL is ready to give little support if the need arises and urged the participants to quickly establish relationship with new local government councils in the state.