The Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, on Monday, called for a more transparent and accountable budget system in the country, noting that the current process is practically fraudulent.
Obaseki stated this while addressing participants at a four-day training organised by the Edo State Ministry of Budget and Economic Planning, in collaboration with Open Government Partnership (OGP).
This was contained in a statement signed by the governor’s spokesman, Crusoe Osagie, and titled, ‘Obaseki faults nation’s budgeting process, urges more transparent, accountable system’.
According to Obaseki, one of the major crises that we have in Nigeria today, apart from the very weak bureaucracy, is our budgeting process. Our budgeting, I am sorry to use a very harsh word, is almost fraudulent. Why do I say so?
“As an entity, whether federal, state, or local government, you know how much you can earn. Assuming you can only earn N100 in a year with all the evidence right before you, of course, you know it’s going to be N100.
“By the time you are preparing the budget and you are giving certain agencies envelopes to put this and that in the budget, you will end up putting up a budget of N200, and you are only going to receive N100. That is where the fraud begins.
“By the time you take that document to the House, the various representatives there have various promises they made to their constituents and the things they want to put in for themselves, and they add N50 to it.
“It will now be a budget of N250, and meanwhile, you have only N100. From that N100, maybe you have said that N100 will be for recurrent expenditures, to pay for the running of the government and N50 will be for capital. The recurrent expenditure is the first-line charge.”
He continued: “You have to pay salaries before you do anything. Now, you have a budget of N250 and have increased your recurrent expenditure in that proportional sum, so what happens year-in-year-out is that the buck of the money in your budget goes to the first-line charge.
“So, there is little or nothing left on things that affect the people, including building schools, roads, hospitals, and other infrastructure for the people.”
The governor, who reiterated the need for citizens’ budgeting, noted: “So, for us in Edo, preparing a citizens’ budget is not negotiable. At least for me as governor, it is non-negotiable. That is why I want more of our DFAs to be here.”
“At the political level, we are doing what we can to change our politics and make political players realize that when they come out to serve, they are not there to serve themselves. Government is not a business where you make money, it’s where you come and serve,” he added.
Earlier, the resource person for the programme, Mr. David Agu, said citizens’ output has become a huge resource for policymaking and implementation, including the budget.
Agu said popular participation, accountability, transparency, simplification, accessibility, and citizens’ feedback lead to a peoples’ budget that will enhance service delivery, improve good governance and bring about development.
In her remarks, the Edo State Commissioner Budget and Economic Planning, Princess Otse Momoh-Omorogbe, said the event would help chart a new direction for the state’s budgeting process.