The citizens of Imo State have demanded for an open budget system as against the shoddy nature of budget proposal and implementation in the State
According to the citizens, what is important presently is open,inclusive,transparent and realistic budget that is impactful to the lives of majority.
This position came from the Workshop held recently in Owerri,Imo State Capital and tagged “Open Budget Forum”.
The participants lamented over what they described as the crude way in which the Imo State House of Assembly passed budgets without public participation as well as the manner the state government implement same, indicating that budgets were not meant for the public good.
The forum organized by a Non-Governmental Organisation(NGO) Development Dynamics (DD), in partnership with UKaid, and Actionaid, described good budget as one that has the features of realism, transparent, flexible, accountability and inclusiveness and that it must be generated from the public.
The Executive Director of Development Dynamic, Dr. Jude Ohanele in his speech states that open budget meant that all persons in a country or a state could access information on the revenues that were collected, the amount of funds allocated to different types of spending, and how international donor assistance and other public resources were used.
Continuing, he called for a system where the entire budget cycle in government remains open from formulation to approval to execution to oversight, stating that budget is a law outlining how government is going to use public resources to meet the public needs.
“The budget is governments’ most important economic policy tool. Public budgets translate a government’s policies, political commitments, and goals into decisions on how much revenue to raise, how it plans to raise it, and how to use these funds to meet the people’s competing needs, from providing security to improving education and health care, to alleviating poverty among others”, Ohanele said.
Further, he states that effective budget system is a catalyst towards economic growth and poverty alleviation, noting that in many countries, including Nigeria and especially the states of the South East, economic problems were worsened by weak budget systems and faulty budget choices, because of its wide-ranging implications for the wellbeing of the people.
He concluded that the budget should be the subject of detailed scrutiny and debate by all the people and should be open.
Also, Mr. Emeka Olisa of Strengthening Citizens Engagement in the Electoral Process (SCEEP) Imo State, spoke on the survey carried out in some communities in the state by his organization in determining the level of citizens’ involvement in the state’s budget process involving engagement, access and roles of stakeholders and implementation.
While noting that a public budget remains a political instrument weighing policy priorities against available public resources; specifies the ways and means of providing public programs and services; establishes the cost of programs and the criteria by which these programs will be evaluated for efficiency and effectiveness; ensures that the programs would be evaluated at least once each budget cycle; redistributes income; provides the government with a spending limitation; and provides transparency by which the government may be held accountable at the end of each budget cycle or political term.
According to Olisa, the budget is such an important document urging government and the State House of Assembly to ensure transparency including carrying along all stakeholders in the budget process,.
This can be achieved according to him by providing enabling environment guaranteeing access to existing public budget such as website updates and other electronic devices, functional constituency offices, town hall meetings/forum and other feedback mechanism from the populace.