Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State has emphasised the need to reform the budgetary process at the federal level.
He spoke while chairing a conversation on reforming the budgetary process in Nigeria held in Abuja on Monday.
Tambuwal said: “It is clear that with the uncalled-for altercations we have had over the years on budgets, we need to reform the federal budgetary process to make it more lucid, inclusive and implementable.
“Part of the reasons why we have had problems with the budget over the years is the paucity of knowledge about the whole budget process. This type of conversation is therefore critical to the effort we must make to make the budgetary process accessible to all and encourage more participation in this crucial national issue.
“It is our firm belief that if more stakeholders, especially the major players in the process, can gain greater insight into the whole system of budgeting, and if the National Assembly as an Arm of Government can attain the dexterity demanded to examine the budgetary estimates submitted annually by the President, there will be less attrition and mistrust between the two Arms of Government.
“One of the problems we have in this country is near absence of planning in our budgetary process. If at all we are interested in making progress in our efforts to reform our budgetary process, we have to begin to get our planning and budgeting right. Can you imagine from Rolling Plans and Annual Budgets through to Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Annual Budgets, it has always been a routine? Our planning and budget design is executed without zeal and passion and it is similarly implemented without much national commitment. Perhaps that was why appropriations in this democratic dispensation have had a chequered history which is a common knowledge.
“This idea of inclusiveness should not only pertain to members of the National Assembly who are constitutionally mandated to perform oversights on the federal budget, but should include other arms of government, civil society groups, leaders of the private sector and private citizens.
“Everyone, in fact, must be allowed to contribute at every stage from the budget preparation, passage, implementation, supplementary or amendment stages.
“Indeed, it would be helpful if as soon as the Appropriation Committees get hold of the budget they immediately hold public hearings for Business Leaders, NGOs, Public Servants, Representatives of Blue Collar Workers, Farmers and the General Public. This will eventually lead to a document that at least has inputs from a cross section of the Nigerian society.
“There are suggestions that we take a cue from the system in the United States where agencies take two years to prepare their budget proposals, fine-tuning it so well that one year before the budget year they get to submit it to the Budget Office for inclusion in the President’s budget estimates to the National Assembly.
“According to Section 81 of the 1999 Constitution, ‘The President shall cause to be prepared and laid before each House of the National Assembly at any time in each financial year estimates of the revenues and expenditure of the Federation for the next following financial year.’ This implies that a President is expected, at the very least, to present his budget before January 1st of the New Year.
“There is a need to amend the Constitution to make the President submit his proposals at least three months before the end of the preceding financial year so that the legislature can perform its vetting duties in time for the Budget to be operational by January 1st. Indeed, it will be helpful if the National Assembly gets some kind of time frame within which it is expected to finish deliberations and return the budget to the President for assent.
“For the process of passing our national budget to become harmonious, less turbulent, and implementable, the stakeholders must develop the principles of collaboration, consensus and compromise. Most significantly, the Executive must plan way ahead, submit the proposals early, and make wide consultations to encourage inputs from a variety of stakeholders. Distinguished
“Ladies and gentlemen, we must always remember that this country comes first and we owe it to the people to make the budget an effective instrument for redistributing wealth and bring the dividends of democracy closer to our people.”