Participatory Budgeting and  Development in Owereland

By Kemdi Opara

Successful political administration depends to a large extent on efficient  and effective making and implementation of the budget. The budget is a tool for the implementation of social, political

and  economic  policies  and  priorities which  impact  on  the  lives  of  the masses but often times, people in the helm of affairs negate this all important aspect of governance.

Though the legislative houses participate during the approval and audit stages, budgeting in Nigeria is seen as an exclusive preserve of the executive arm of government, especially as it concerns budget preparation and implementation.

This may well be why since 1999 when  democratic rule returned in Nigeria, all efforts to ensure participatory governance have never  received  the support it deserved especially by the  ruling  class since  they  see it  as  a  threat to  their collective interest; thereby making opportunities for citizens, and participation in governance in Nigeria to remain limited. Indeed, exclusion from participation in the budgetary process is tantamount to a breach of the democratic process and political and economic marginalisation are rooted in exclusion from the budget making process. 

Nevertheless, a budget is the principal instrument of fiscal policy used to encourage stable growth, sustainable development and prosperity in the economy. It outlines what

economic and non-economic activities a government wants to undertake with special focus on

policies, objectives and strategies for accomplishments that are substantiated with revenue and expenditure-projections.

It  is through a budget that the statement  of expected income and expenditure of any government over a period, usually one year, are indicated therefore, budgetary allocation which means  the amount of cash or budget allocated to each item of expenditure in the financial plan depends  heavily  on information, analysis and projections. 

In spite of these information, analysis and projections, governments, Ministries, Departments and Agencies renegade on the budget made just to satisfy their personal desires

For instance, a total of NGN640bn was distributed to the three tiers of government by the Federation Account Allocation Committee, FAAC, in February, 2021  as federation allocation for the month of January, 2021. of this amount, inclusive cost of collection to NCS, DPR and FIRS, federal government received N226.998bn, the states received N177.171bn while local governments got N131.399bn just as oil producing states received N26.777bn as derivation(13%of Mineral Revenue. All these monies notwithstanding, some states in Nigeria have nothing to show and many of them still owe workers salaries.

It is expected that all those who get a share of the allocation should utilise it for what it was budgeted for but that is often not the case in Nigeria as many offices channel the monies into various uses other than what  it was budgeted for at the detriment of the masses. This may well be the reason citizens are not carried along in budgeting.

What participatory budgeting is, should be or what it is not has always been a topic for discussion. While some school of thought argue that participatory budgeting is a process through which citizens can contribute to  decision making over at least part of a governmental budget, another says it should be open to any citizen who wants to participate can do so, yet another believes it should combine direct and representative democracy, involve deliberation and not consultation, redistribute resources to get to the poor, and must be self-regulating, so that participants can help define the rules governing the process, including the criteria by which resources are allocated.

The problem of budget allocation in Nigeria has remained divisive over the years because the country is still divided between the minority ruling class, who controls both the economic and political power of the society, so, dominates and exploits the governed, and the dominated and exploited working class, who have neither economic nor political power, but are in the majority yet powerless. The states therefore, mainly functions as an instrument  of  class domination, with which the ruling class protects itself and exploits the working class.

A Dr. Uche Igwe led study on illicit financial flows advocates that to secure best value in terms of allocation and utilization scarce resources in Nigeria, the concept of value Money Audit, due process and cost Audit must be adhered to strictly and if properly applied alongside good public procurement philosophy will engender a strong legal, organizational and professional framework to make budgeting and budget implementation in the Nigerian Public Sector robust and effective.

Oftentimes, stories of disparity between budget and its implementation in Nigeria’s public sector make the headlines in newspapers, priority in public discourses and academic journals and they all come back with the same answers -corruption, fluctuating oil revenue, unstable economic parameters and poor budget monitoring.

It therefore, becomes imperative that there’s professionalism in post project review technique of value for money concept, performance measurement and benchmarking so that the continuous process and improvement recorded can be imbibed as a national corporate culture.

It is disheartening that in spite of the specific appropriate laws, the commitment phase of the expenditure process is a fertile ground for corrupt activities because most times, there is partial or total disregard of procurement regulations and procedures, even where they exist.

There are several constraints to budget implementation, an example being corruption which always hinders budget implementation. Ministries often have no adequate measures to address budget variances, they do not adequately monitor budget so as to achieve the expected goal.

Poor and unrealistic policy implementation has been the bane of socio-economic development in developing countries like Nigeria as budget implementation is not just about executing the approved budget. In many countries of the world, the implemented budget varies from the adopted one this could be as a result of the country’s fiscal conditions, stability and certainty in the country’s finances, the role of the finance ministry, and the type of budget system. A highly itemized budget may experience more variance than the budget which gives managers spending discretion.

Giving spending units more flexibility in implementing their budgets, is now the trend in contemporary public management  even though this may not be appropriate in countries with inadequate management controls.  

Appropriate implementation, leads to development which integrates people into the plans and policies of government who in turn, provide services of importance to its citizens in rural and urban areas such as provision of basic services like water, roads, health facilities, education. Unfortunately, in the states for instance, the role of government in providing these services has attracted public concern as a result of increasing rate of poverty among the rural people. Some scholars associate this development to poor budgeting and implementation while others blame the federal government for  interference. Whatever the case may be, there is dire need to liberate the people from untold hardship.

The foregoing clearly shows that the budget is in essence, a political tool in which a people’s aspirations and strategies for progress and inclusion in a nation’s body politic are embedded.  A representative of the people must therefore not only be a reliable and empathetic connoisseur of these aspirations and needs but also be knowledgeable, astute and charismatic enough to get them into the budget and monitor their successful implementation. 

A representative of Owerri people must have an intensive knowledge of how population density, derivation from crude oil, ecological situations, zoning and other situations that affect the lives of Imo people play in the preparation and implementation of the national budget. In that way, he will be in a position to effectively represent the Owereman’s interests.

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