BudgIT, a civic tech transparency organisation working on holding government accountable and creating an active citizenry to improve governance, has charged Nigerians to demand from their state governments details of their yearly budgets to promote transparency in public finance.
The organisation’s position was the results of the findings of its current #StateofStates campaign signed by its Communication Lead, Abiola Afolabi, which examined the level of transparency in the 36 states and showed that only 15 states had their public finance systems accessible online as at 20th June this year.
The BudgIT online assessment on the availability of public finance documents in state government domains’ findings showed that only Borno, Delta, Edo, Ekiti, Gombe, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kogi, Kwara, Lagos, Nasarawa, Ondo, Plateau and Yobe have their public finance documents online.
Out of the I5 states, the civil organisation reported that 13, namely Borno, Delta Edo, Ekiti, Gombe, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kogi, Nasarawa, Ondo, Plateau and Yobe had their budgets sufficiently detailed while Lagos and Kwara states only summarised their budgets on the governments’ websites.
BudgIT listed states without any online information about their budgets as at the time of the release of the campaign findings as including, Abia, Akwa Ibom, Adamawa, Anambra, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Benue, Cross River, Enugu, Gombe, Imo, Jigawa, Kebbi, Niger, Ogun, Osun, Oyo, Rivers, Sokoto, Taraba, and Zamfara.
Following the non-availability of the 21 states’ fiscal plans in the public domain, the organisation called on the people in the states to demand for their states’ budgets collectively to ensure the society works in their interest, and also charged Nigerians to keep an eye on the funds and follow the money.
The organisation pointed out that across the world, transparency had been noted for fostering citizens’ trust in government and increasing investor confidence.
It also called on states with partially detailed budgets documents in public domains, including Lagos and Kwara states, to provide details of capital projects being executed for the fiscal year.
BudgIT stated: “Shrouding public finance information in secrecy thereby encourages corruption and mediocre performance in the States. The #StateofStates advocacy continues to critically look at the proactiveness in the disclosure of information in the Nigerian States and their compliance with the Freedom of Information law where applied.
“Transparency in the states continues the downward swing as governments persist in denying citizens the access to relevant information.
“It is commendable that the states released full budget documents to the public, but it must be published within a reasonable timeframe. The proposed budget details presented to the state House of Assembly should be made available to the public to enable them to engage their Legislators during the budget debate.
“Any state keen on citizen participation in governance should publish full details of the proposal with 48 hours of submission to the legislature. The fundamental requirement of good governance is transparency, and the least form of transparency is the availability of public finance information”, it added.
Commenting on the campaign findings, BudgIT Project Manager, Abayomi Akinbo, observed that “information on government spending from the public purse should be provided to the people by the government through various communication channels; one of which is the official state website. However, this is not the case with State governments in Nigeria.”
BudgIT stated further that beyond the release of pictures and stories of projects executed, it remained vital that citizens are informed of project cost to enable them to decide if the project delivered optimum value for money spent.
“Nigeria battles the current scourge of corruption due to the prevailing practice of opacity at federal, state and local levels. No country achieves transparency and accountability without the active participation of citizens in the management of its resources. Taxpayers must hold government accountable to enable them to enjoy the dividends of democracy”, it stressed.