Christopher Isiguzo in Enugu
Incensed by what they described as the high rate of corruption in the local government areas around the country, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, (ICPC), and the United Nation Development Programmes, (UNDP) recently organised a four-day training workshop on budget monitoring at the grassroots level.
The workshop, which was coordinated by a non-governmental organisation (NGO) Africa Centre for Rural Development and Environment (ACERDEN), had in attendance more than 450 â€œkey influencersâ€ from the 17 local government areas of Enugu state.
The training was intended to equip the stakeholders with the skills required in monitoring the planning and execution of budgets at the grassroots by council chairmen.
Those trained include among others town union executives, traditional rulers, retired permanent secretaries/other public officers, head teachers and community based organisations (CBOs).
The NGO, supported by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), and funded by the United Nation Development Programme (UNDP) said trainees would take the campaign against corruption to the grassroots level in the state.
Addressing participants at the workshop, Chief Executive Officer of ACERDEN, Prof. Daniel Ugwu, assured listeners, participants and other stakeholders that at the end of the training, participants would become more aware of their roles in their different communities in terms of budget preparation, presentation, and execution.
According to Ugwu, â€œthere is a link between budget, service delivery, and corruption. Budget padding is evil, be it corrective accounting or others.â€
The don highlighted common problems in the budget processes to include poor planning, weak financial management system, corruption, inadequate funding, diversion of funds, weak budget oversight, and the role of the grassroots people in the budget processes.
He said, â€œYou must demand to know how much is received from the federation account, how much revenue was generated, what projects or activities are contained in the local government budgets, where they could be located and at what costâ€.
Prof. Ugwu said the involvement of CBOs and NGOs in the monitoring activities is very fundamental because it creates or gives room for local council development while also recognising their leadership role and responsibility in the partnership arrangement with government.
The ICPC Chief Superintendent, Enugu zonal office, Mr. Eze Ansell said the agency had a forum where NGOs participate with them in the campaign against corruption and corrupt practices, which is a national anti-corruption coalition.
He added that the training became necessary because, â€œIt will also aid in eradicating corrupt practices among the contractors and some government officials because the communities will hold the government responsible for any project coming through not confrontational means but through monitoring to ensure that the funds that are being released are properly used in any government contract in the communities.â€