The objective of the colloquium was to provide expert information on the legislative power of Appropriation and Budget Reform process to enable the journalists and Social media influencers set the right agenda and inform the public accordingly.
Commencing the presentation, the Director General of NILS, Prof. Ladi Hamalai gave the background to her presentation, anchored on the failure of the government budget to meet the general expectations of service delivery and development in Nigeria. She said in the light of this, the Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, inaugurated a Technical Committee on Budget Reforms to produce a budget reform strategy paper and draft Reform Bill. She said the Committee was uniquely comprised of members of the legislature, executive and other stakeholders.
The Committee achieved its objectives and submitted its report to the National Assembly where it is undergoing legislative scrutiny and process.
Professor Hamalai listed the following as the major weaknesses and challenges of Nigeria’s budget process:
• No organic budget law
• Existing laws and regulations do not provide adequately for a fixed and realistic budget calendar.
• Budgeting system is input-based rather than outcome-based
• There is no accountability system; rather we have an audit system which is normally not enough.
• No wide consultation and public participation
• There is no comprehensive data-base on socio-economic conditions of the country.
• The budget is more of a political instrument than an economic instrument
• Abundant leakages in capital implementation
• Too wide gap between budget estimates and revenue base, thus budgets are not implementable.
• Oversight and evaluation reports are not followed through
Impact of Budget Failure in Nigeria
The DG, Prof. Hamalai pointed out the following as the worst sectors affected:
• Unemployment is on the rise
• There is infrastructural decay
• Tend to consume most of the resources on recurrent rather than capital
• Declining industrialized society
She made country comparisons of expenditure management and budget performance; stating that countries like Sweden, United States, Botswana, Brazil and South Africa have lessons and experiences to share with regards to budget reform and public finance. According to the DG, some of the lessons to learn include:
• Budget reforms are inevitable at the various stages of the budget cycle
• Need for separate budget acts aimed at addressing problem areas in the budget process
• Budgeting is not only about steering the allocation of money, it also covers the steering of resources and result (performance).
• Need for a development planning framework for the annual budget
• Need for an adequate time period to prepare the budget early and enact it before the new fiscal year begins
• Need to amend the Constitution to explicitly provide for power to write/amend the budget by the legislature
• Need to identify stakeholders that would help drive the reform implementation process by persuading the government to stick to the reform.