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BudgIT slams Lagos, 11 other states for not publishing 2019 budget

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BudgIT’s co-founder Olusegun Onigbinde

BudgIT Nigeria has deplored the non-disclosure of the 2019 budget details by 12 states, despite the World Bank’s N270 billion support to encourage public finance transparency.

The non-governmental organisation made this known through a report of its eight-month painstaking investigation of the availability of public finance documents by state governments.

It lamented that 11 states, including Lagos, Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Ebonyi, Imo, Nasarawa, Oyo, Rivers, Sokoto and Zamfara, did not publish details of their 2019 budget online by June 3, while Kwara State’s budget went missing on its website immediately after the recent transition.

According to the firm’s principal lead, Gabriel Okeowo, the state governments’ refusal have proved that the returns from the usual budget secrecy are more fulfilling to them than the $750 million (N270 billion) incentive from the World Bank to encourage public finance transparency in Nigeria.

“The assessment of the availability of public finance documents in state government domains reveals that only 25 states’ approved budgets are available online, a few of which are summarised scanned documents,” he added.

For Okeowo, the development contravenes ideals of transparency in the management of public resources, which is the requisite guideline for World Bank’s State Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability (SFTAS) programme, a product of mutual agreement between financial institutions and the federal government to strengthen fiscal transparency, accountability and sustainability in Nigeria, as well as to turbo-charge their revenue base, increase fiscal efficiency in public expenditure while reducing debt overhangs.

The project, which involved submission of written expressions of interest by the 36 state governments, commenced late last year after endorsement by the National Economic Council (NEC) in March.

It is shocking that any state would jettison the offer of a programme that was informed by serious fiscal challenges faced by states, the majority of which are still unable to pay workers’ salaries and pensions, Okeowo stressed.

“We must emphasise that Imo, Zamfara and Sokoto states have not published their budget documents since 2017, whereas Lagos, which provides only a thumbnail of it, has a history of notoriously resisting attempts to uncover its financial dealings, thus embedding corruption.

“This situation notwithstanding, BudgIT will not give in on its advocacy for transparency and accountability in Nigeria. We shall look more critically at the proactivity in the disclosure of financial information by Nigerian states as well as their compliance with the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act,” he insisted.

The group’s communications associate, Mr. Shakir Akorede, commended the states that released their full budget documents to the public.

He said, “This is pivotal in enabling citizens to engage legislators during budget debates. States with partially detailed budget documents in public domains must provide details of capital projects being executed for the fiscal year.”


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