As the federal government and states finalise their budgets for 2016, it is vital that citizens pay more than a passing notice to this very important part of the sacred covenant between the people and their elected leaders. In order to sustain and encourage conversation about budgets and their transparency, the Civil Resource Development and Documentation Centre (CIRDDOC) recently released its ‘Nigerian States Budget Transparency Survey 2015’. The survey was done with data collected in 2014.
In that survey, Ekiti State ranked first among the 36 states of the country. In the ‘Transparency Index 2015’, Ekiti ranked 79 – the highest score on the index. It is worth noting that apart from the second-placed state – Cross River – which ranked 73 on the index, no other state crossed the 60th mark. Third-placed Lagos State ranked 60. This survey, conducted with support from UK-Aid and the International Budget Partnership (IBP), is recommended reading for our federal and state lawmakers as they get set to undertake their constitutional scrutiny of the respective budgets laid before them.
In determining what factors a budget must meet to ensure that it is a practical and transparent document, it is vital that we examine the model that was used in Ekiti State under former Governor Kayode Fayemi. Indeed, the vibrant anti-corruption campaign of President Muhammadu Buhari and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) receives a boost when we enthrone a culture of what CIRDDOC defines as an “open, inclusive and accountable budget and procurement process in which citizens, Auditors General, governors, civil society and the media play a vital role.”
How did Dr Fayemi, who has since moved on to national assignment as Minister of Solid Minerals Development, achieve the feat in Ekiti? First, he enthroned a culture of transparency in the state; a culture that sadly seems to be dying a fast death since he left the governor’s seat. A few months after he assumed office as governor, Dr Fayemi ensured that Ekiti became the first state to domesticate the Freedom of Information Act. This was very symbolic as it paved the way for other efforts to ensure that the business of governance was done in the most transparent and proactive manner.
On the ‘Availability of Key Budget Documents’ section of the survey, Ekiti topped with 75 points; a fitting testimony of the fact that the Fayemi Budget Model ensured that access to budget documents was guaranteed. Under this model, all state contracts were published online on the government’s website. Indeed, the website – ekiti.gov.ng – was adjudged the best state website in the country for proactive disclosure, among the numerous awards it received. Not only were details of the budget and public procurement published on the website, they were also readily available for anyone who worked into the relevant offices to demand for them.
Fayemi also introduced a more robust type of participatory budgeting; a development that sees Ekiti, along with Cross River, also topping the ‘Participation’ section of the survey with 78 points. Under this model, which was commenced in 2013, the state government ensured that all communities participated in the budget planning by examining the performance of the previous budget vis-à-vis the needs of the respective communities and incorporating new needs and practical solutions into the new budget.
On ‘Procurement’, perhaps the most critical section of the ‘Nigerian States Budget Transparency Survey 2015’, Ekiti topped the list with 100 points. It is very telling that the state grabbed maximum points from this very critical section. Budgets are only as good as the procurement systems that drive their implementation. Therefore, the Fayemi Model is one that all stakeholders must insist that our states adapt to ensure that we begin to truly experience open governments in this new era. Under Dr Fayemi, all state government contracts were published online and citizens could access relevant information about the government procurement chain.
As Nigeria grapples with dwindling crude oil sales and prepares to aggressively explore other numerous areas of revenue, it is expected that governments across the various levels will be more prudent and proactive in the preparation and management of their budgets for 2016. It is also expected that all stakeholders will become more committed to establishing a more transparent budgeting and procurement process that will result in truly open governments. The Fayemi Model has opened a path that we should explore and widen in our quest to achieve this objective.
CIRDDOC says it is committed to playing its part in the accountability ecosystem of Nigeria by releasing the survey every two years. Dr Fayemi has also played a critical part in establishing and sustaining this ecosystem. In the next survey that will be released by CIRDDOC, while Ekiti may not retain its enviable records for 2015 due to the sad state of government instituted by Dr Fayemi’s successor in office, it is hoped that more than half of the 36 states in Nigeria rise appreciably on the rankings. This rise will only be made possible by a thorough scrutiny and wholesome application of the Fayemi Model.
*Olanipekun writes from Lagos, Nigeria.