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CISLAC, OXFAM partner to strengthen fiscal responsibility framework

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Enugu State Commissioner of Finance, Eze Onyekpere Esq (l); Mrs Ada Kene-Uyanwune; Acting Chair of FRC, Barr. Victor Muruako and ED of CISLAC, Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani), at the retreat for FRC Sub-National personnel, in Port Harcourt.

As part of efforts aimed at turning around the country’s fiscal management systems, stakeholders have been advised to rise up to their responsibilities, to right the wrongs.

Rising from a one-day retreat organised by the Fiscal Responsibility Commission (FRC), with support from Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and Oxfam Nigeria for FRC Sub-National personnel, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, the retreat was targeted at addressing policy and institutional framework for strengthening fiscal prudence, transparency and accountability within the framework of the financing for development.

In attendance were chairman of the FRC- Barr. Victor Muruako; representative of Rivers State Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Adue Stephen; representative of the Honorable Speaker, Bayelsa State, Hon. Barr. Tare Porri and Commissioner of Finance, Enugu State, Mrs. Ada Kene-Uyanwune.

Others are the Solicitor-General/Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice, Imo State, Barr. Uwasomba M. C; the Chairman, FRC Cross River State, Hon. Moses Oko; Chairman, FRC Ebonyi, Mrs. Oji-Uzor Ijeoma; Chairman, FRC Ekiti, Mr. Ologuntoye A.O; Chief State Counsel, Oyo State, Mr. Akintola Akibu; Executive Director, CISLAC, Auwal Musa Rafsanjani and the representative of the Country Director of Oxfam, Nigeria, Mr. Henry Ushie.

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In his opening remarks, Executive Director of CISLAC, Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani) underscored the need to entrench accountability in the management of public finance in Nigeria.

He said: “The Fiscal Responsibility Commission in one way or the other has a mandate to curb these menace that is not giving us the desired result in the acclaimed fight against corruption in Nigeria.  We are here to educate ourselves on the reason why we should support and strengthen this institution and also cascade it to our different states. This is the best way towards ensuring that our resources are prudently managed, especially now that we do not have all the resources. It does not make any sense that we borrow recklessly and also spend recklessly, it is not in any way to our best interest as a country.”

In his welcome address, the Acting Chairman of the FRC, Muruako, stated that concerns regarding the country’s continuing challenge in mobilising adequate revenue has made it imperative for a collaborative engagement of all stakeholders in fashioning out a way forward and proposing a better and more prudent management of the nation’s resources with a view to addressing macro-economic stability.

“The need for this interaction cannot be over-emphasised given the present tough economic challenges orchestrated by COVID-19 pandemic and also noting essentially that more than half of our national resources are expended at the states and local council levels…

“It is instructive to note that prior to the advent of the FRA in 2007 that Nigeria’s fiscal climate was marked by the absence of clear fiscal rules, uncoordinated fiscal relations between the arms and tiers of government, reckless borrowing and debt overhang, poor savings culture, disregard for transparency and accountability and corrupt practices, resulting in chaotic and unhealthy economic outcomes.

“In the last 11 years plus, the commission has worked at putting these reforms on the right footing. This has by no means been an easy task. Our experience as a reform-implementing agency has demonstrated that much more than strong laws are needed if we must effectively break with the past habit of financial profligacy,” he stated.

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While presenting a paper titled “Fiscal Sustainability Plan: Accountability and Transparency and Debt Management,” one of the speakers, Eze Onyekpere Esq challenged government at all levels to “open up their books” if they had nothing to hide.

“We borrow without thinking of how to repay. We borrow based on political exigencies. We borrow to spend on unbankable projects,” he bemoaned.

He stated that the sub-national Fiscal Sustainability Plan (FSP) is designed as an economic and public finance management tool with key objectives of improving accountability and transparency; increasing public revenue; rationalising public expenditure; improving public finance management and ensuring sustainable debt management, adding that publication of budgets, quarterly reports and other fiscal data will not only promote transparency in governance but also build public trust and understanding of the key fiscal challenges…,” he asserted.

At the end, two recommendations were proposed for both FRC and the states with emphasis on engaging the National Economic Council and Nigeria Governors’ Forum on the need for the domestication of the FRA and the establishment of state commissions, as well as engaging the State Houses of Assembly on the relevance of a fiscal responsibility framework and advocate its domestication and effective implementation.

As regards states compliance with the provisions of the FRA on borrowing, it was recommended that there should be framework that mandates the states to domesticate the FRA as a prerequisite to accessing the funding from the government-supported SFTAS programme and enforcement mechanisms should be put in place to mandate states to publish state budget online annually and budget implementation performance report online quarterly in accordance with the FRA, among others.

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