By Hammed Shittu
Kwara State Governor, Alhaji AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, has assured residents of the state that henceforth, budgetary preparations for every fiscal year would be participatory in order to accommodate people’s expectations from the government.
AbdulRazaq, who gave assurance at a recent town hall meeting of all stakeholders during the flag-off of the three-phased citizens’ engagement session on the 2021 budget in Ilorin, said the era of making budgetary preparations to be an elitist form was over.
The engagement was attended by several community-based organisations, civil society groups, religious bodies, and cabinet members led by the Secretary to the Kwara State Government Professor Mamman Saba Jubril. Members of the parliament were led to the session by the Speaker, Yakubu Salihu Danladi and House Leader, Magaji Olawoyin.
He said, “Our budgets are often too elitist and we are working in Kwara to address this. This meeting is one of such steps. We will make sure that fewer technical terms are used so that ordinary folks can understand and own the document.
“On December 10th 2019, our administration organised the first-ever citizens’ engagement session on budget preparation in the state. That engagement was meant to harvest the views of the people on what shape and direction they wanted the 2020 budget to take. While we will always seek to do more, I am proud to say that the views of our people were respected in the budget.”
He added, “I also said we will hold the sessions across our three senatorial districts. I am proud to say that we have fulfilled that promise with this flag-off today. Another one is slated for Kwara North on Thursday while the third leg of the engagement will hold in Kwara South on September 7th.”.
AbdulRazaq said the citizens’ engagement was to further democratise the budget preparation process in line with the global best practices of transparency and inclusion.
He said the administration has taken budget beyond the annual rituals it was in Kwara State by making sure that the fiscal plan is implemented to have positive impacts in the lives of the people.
The governor stressed, “For the first time in many years in Kwara State, we recorded 52 per cent implementation of the capital expenditure component of the 2019 budget.
“The closest to that in recent years was 42 per cent that was achieved in 2017. Similarly, we posted a record 98 per cent implementation of the recurrent expenditure in the same budget.
“These underscore our commitment to infrastructural development and the welfare of the people. Notwithstanding the COVID-19 pandemic and the disruptions to the global economy, our resolve will be to beat this record.”
AbdulRazaq said the administration was committed to transparency, probity, and community ownership of government projects, adding that the government has officially activated the social audit that he proposed a few weeks ago.
He opined further that, “We are open to collaboration. We want the people to be involved in what we do because we have nothing to hide. That is why we proposed social auditing which has now started.
“The idea is for everyone to be involved and to ensure optimum use of resources. We can come together to make public funds work for the people. Where there are infractions with any projects or contractors, we will address such,” he said.
Chairman Kwara House of Assembly Committee on Finance and Appropriation, Hon. Olatunji Ambali expressed the support of the Assembly to government in its bid to ensure transparency and citizens’ participation in budgetary process.
“Members of the 9th Assembly legislature that I am a part of are in total support of the town hall meeting initiative which has the aim of harvesting contributions and suggestions from members of the general public and critical stakeholders in the budget preparation process,” Ambali said.
“This strategy/process of openness and transparency will also afford the House of Assembly Committee on Finance and Appropriation the opportunity to have a seamless budget consideration and passage exercise. Indeed, it is a highly welcomed development.”
On her part, the Commissioner for Finance and Planning, Mrs. Florence Oyeyemi explained that the town hall meeting was to harvest the inputs of the citizens for inclusion into the fiscal plan of the state.