BudgIT Highlights Nigeria’s Decline in Fiscal Transparency, Calls For Urgent Action

BudgIT Highlights Nigeria’s Decline in Fiscal Transparency, Calls For Urgent Action

BudgIT, a civic-tech organisation promoting transparency, accountability and effective service delivery in Nigeria has expressed concern over the country’s performance in the 2023 Open Budget Survey (OBS) conducted by the International Budget Partnership (IBP).

According to the latest ranking, Nigeria scored lower than the global average of 45 (out of 100) in the Open Budget Index, ranking below Cameroon, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Sierra Leone, and Benin.

The Open Budget Survey is the world’s only comparative, independent, and regular assessment of transparency, oversight, and participation in national budgets. It was designed to help local civil society organisations and the public evaluate government reporting on public funds, ensuring they are spent on public interests.

The 2023 survey assessed 125 countries, home to 95 per cent of the world’s population, and included budgets totalling more than $33.5 trillion in spending in the 2022 fiscal year.

According to the 2023 survey obtained by THISDAY,  despite a 24 per cent global increase in transparency, Nigeria scored 31 (out of 100) in transparency, 19 (out of 100) in public participation, and 61 (out of 100) in institutional oversight, resulting in an overall rank of 92 out of 125 countries.

In comparison, Nigeria’s 2021 OBS performance was more promising, with scores of 45 (out of 100) in transparency, 26 (out of 100) in public participation, and 61 (out of 100) in institutional oversight.

Nigeria’s disappointing performance was primarily due to the government’s failure to promptly publish in-year reports and mid-year reviews online and adopt innovative public participation practices.

Regarding transparency, BudgIT recommended that legislative committees thoroughly examine the Executive Budget Proposal, in-year Budget Implementation, and Audit Report and publicly publish their findings.

To improve budget transparency, BudgIT further recommended that the Nigerian government should publish its fiscal documents promptly, ensuring quarterly reports are released within three month post-period, monthly fiscal accounts are published timely on the Open Treasury Portal, and annual budgets are published in machine-readable formats.

“To enhance public participation in Nigeria’s budget process, the Budget Office should expand engagement mechanisms during budget implementation, including promoting the EyeMark app for citizen feedback on projects and actively involving vulnerable communities.

“The National Assembly should allow public and civil society testimonies during budget and Audit Report hearings. At the same time, the Auditor-General’s office should create formal avenues for public contributions to audit programs and investigations,” it added.

Commenting on the survey, Nigeria’s Country Manager of International Budget Partnership, Olayinka Babalola said, “The Open Budget Survey is an important tool for generating discussion amongst citizens, government, civil society organisations and all stakeholders on how public finance systems can address the needs of everyone, especially the marginalised and vulnerable.

“Nigeria’s scores in the OBS 2023 provide a unique opportunity to identify areas for improvement and reflect on how the government can build on the gains made in previous years to make budgetary processes more transparent and participatory while increasing oversight on how public funds are raised and spent.

“The budget should serve all citizens, and to make this happen, spaces for citizen participation at every stage of the budget cycle must be created and nurtured.  I urge everyone to engage with this year’s report and use it as an advocacy tool for equitable, open and transparent management of public finances in Nigeria.”

On his part, BudgIT’s Country Director, Gabriel Okeowo, underscored the urgency of the situation.

“This is an immediate cry for help. Nigeria is experiencing a decline in fiscal transparency. The current administration has the ball in its court to revive fiscal transparency and take the nation further without reminiscing about past glories.

“There is still a need for better transparency, enhanced mechanisms for public participation and engagements in the budget process, oversight functions performed by the Supreme Audit Institution and the Legislature, and improved timeliness in publishing detailed budget documents, especially Audit Reports,” he added.

The 2023 Open Budget Survey highlights the urgent need for accountable and inclusive public budgeting. We urge the Nigerian government to promptly publish fiscal documents and engage citizens in the budget process to enhance fiscal transparency and accountability.

Chuks Okocha

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