By Chinyere Joel-Nwokeoma
The Federal Government has reiterated commitment to transparency and accountability, to ensure participatory budget planning and implementation through the Open Government Partnership (OGP) initiative.
Dr Gloria Ahmed, Director, Special Duties, Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, said this at the peer learning workshop with Civil Society Actors on SFTAS programme and Outputs on Tuesday in Lagos.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that OGP secretariat is an implementing agency of the States Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability (SFTAS) programme for results, with a timeline of 2018 to 2022.
SFTAS programme is charged with the mandate of providing technical assistance to the states, to enable them achieve Disbursement Linked Indicator (DLI) 11.
Ahmed urged Nigerians to be open-minded and support the Federal Government in budget monitoring and implementation.
“We encourage Nigerians to be open-minded, this government is committed to transparency and accountability but it’s not a one man show, it’s not what government alone can do, we all have to work with government,” she said.
Ahmed said that the essence of the engagement with the civil society was for peer learning, because most of them were active in the states monitoring budget processes.
“We invited them from all the states of the federation to come and share their views, experiences over the years on how they monitor states in terms of implementation of the peoples budget in line with SFTAS mandate,” she added.
According to her, government programme supported by SFTAS focuses on strengthening the fiscal sustainability, transparency and accountability of Nigerian states.
She urged Nigerians to be involved in budget monitoring and implementation processes to promote transparency and accountability in governance.
“The CSOs are working, they have different actors working on this; everyone should put their hands on deck, within your own sphere, make sure you play your own part, not just government, but we are committed to doing the right thing,” Ahmed said.
Ahmed, also the National Coordinator of OGP, said that the Federal Government would continue to build the capacity of CSOs to ensure the sustainability of the SFTAS reforms beyond the timeline of the programme in 2022.
She dislclosed the engagement would be extended to the various levels such as state actors to ensure sustainability of SFTAS even after its expiration on Dec. 31, 2022.
Also speaking, Mr Ibrahim Mohammed, Communication Specialist SFTAS, said that OGP was an important partner in engaging with the civil society.
Mohammed said that the mandate of the OGP seeks to promote participatory budget where the citizens were given the opportunity to participate in budget processes; not only participation, but to determine their development needs.
He noted that the introduction of SFTAs had ensured openness in budget implementation with government providing what the citizens need unlike in the past when they determine for them.
“We are encouraging the citizens to participate in the budget process so that they can own it, that is why we call it citizens budget and the states are binding.
“The whole thing is about promoting fiscal transparency and accountability, how do the people hold government accountable, if they don’t participate in the budget process, they cannot hold people accountable.
“So, that is why we are saying, let the people participate and the OGP is the agency driving this process across the states of the federation.
“They have been engaging with the civil society organisations to promote fiscal transperancy and accountability,” Mohammed said.
Dr Uzochukwu Amakom, Senior Public Financial Management Expert, Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) – SFTAS programme, said SFTAS had increased transparency and accountability among state governors.
Amakom said the NGF had been giving technical assistance to the states to ensure they key into the SFTAS initiative.
“Before, it was difficult for certain documents to be seen by the public, but this time around, they are now available; if you want to download the 36 states budget for 2021, you have access to them.
“This is what some people never knew will happen in the past, the audited financial statements are there for the public to know what is happening,” he said.
Amakom stressed the need for sustainability of the initiative even after the expiration of the timeline.
“CSOs and citizens should engage their states in a non-confrontational manner because governance is inclusive and if you want to be part of it, you have to be a partner, you have to bring your own idea.
“If we can sustain that Rome was not built in a day, if we build on what we have achieved these few years and continue in that line, I believe in the next 10 years, everybody will be happy doing it,” Amakom added. (NAN)