By Oke Epia
Stakeholders have called on the National Assembly to ensure that there are definitive timelines for passage of and assent to the annual budget in order to ensure fiscal certainty and promote economic growth and development.
They also called on the National Assembly to speed up the amendment of the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007, to include enforceable sanctions for officials who default in the performance of their roles in the preparation and timely submission of the budget to the legislature at the national and sub-national levels.
These positions formed part of a 10-point communiqué reached at a forum on the constitution amendment process convened by OrderPaper Nigeria on Monday, August 16, 2021.
The virtual forum, christened, OrderPaper Parliamentary Engagement Nigeria (OPEN), was supported by the Partnership to Engage, Reform and Learn (PERL) Programme of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) of the United Kingdom.
Panelists at the forum were Barr. Victor Muruako, Executive Chairman, Fiscal Responsibility Commission (FRC); Prof. Mojeed Alabi, Professor of Political Science & Adjunct Professor of Public Law, Osun State University who is also a former lawmaker; and Mr. Bolutife Oluwadele, Policy Analyst and Chartered Accountant. The communiqué was signed by Oke Epia, Executive Director of OrderPaper Nigeria.
While acknowledging that the irregular passage of and assent to the annual appropriation bill at the National and State levels of government have caused uncertainty in public finance management and delivery of public services to citizens, the forum canvassed for clearly defined time frames.
“It is imperative to institutionalize timeline for the stages of the Appropriation Bill and Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) which will be implementable and practicable,” the communiqué observed, saying this will, in no small measure, help the private sector, foreign investors and citizens generally to make effective planning and economic decision-making.
While noting that the “current cordiality and understanding between the Executive and the Legislature that led to a return to the January – December budget circle provides a window of opportunity to advance the timelines challenge of the appropriation bill,” the stakeholders demanded an institutionalization of the same.
“There is need for enforceable sanctions of defaulting duty bearers involved in the budget preparation and implementation process and this will promote the culture of discipline and responsibility. In this regard, the ongoing amendment of the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007, by the Senate should be speedily concluded by the National Assembly and transmitted to the President for assent,” the further said.
They also canvassed “effective citizen participation at all stages of the budget (formulation, implementation and evaluation)” as such would “go a long way in fostering transparency and accountability on public service delivery.
“There is need for thorough scrutiny of budget proposals by the National and State Assemblies before passage therefore, emphasizing the imperative for timely submission by the Executive and subsequent presidential assent.
“Budget Performance Reports should be institutionalized in practical terms as a major item in the federal and sub-nationals. There is need for leadership recruitment that takes into account persons with dedication and demonstrable capacity for public service
“There should be more citizen enlightenment/engagement on the importance of the budgetary process, and legislative duties generally
“Accordingly, the OPEN Constitution Conversations by OrderPaper Nigeria should be sustained in order to address topical issues in the Constitution review exercise.