Saturday, May 5, 2007

RESPONSI-KINI?

Below are excerpts from an allAfrica.com article this week. One wonders what process of consultation with the Nigerian populace took place before these decisions were made on our behalf. For those who don't know, the Federal Executive Council is made up of the President and his Ministers. They initiate policies and programs of the FG, but how do the Ministers "figure out" what the people want/need? And though it's all gravy at the Fed level, once the $$ is in the hands of the governors, they have full control over what to spend it on, and are accountable to noone. The Fiscal Responsibility Bill would make state and local governments more accountable to the FG and ultimately to their constituencies. But it's been vetoed by the governors on the grounds that it is unconstitutional since it tampers with the states' independence.

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Barely 21 days to the end of the lifespan of this administration, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) yesterday gave provisional approval for eight additional private universities, thus bringing the total number of private and public universities in the country to eighty nine.

It also approved N21.4 billion for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to improve its capacity building within a three-year period beginning from next year that would ensure more focus on economic diplomacy, better communication linkage with all foreign offices, relocation of the foreign Ministry to its permanent site and improvement of office accommodation infrastructure in Nigeria's foreign offices.

The Minister of Education who said the country needed more universities to take care of the critical mass of people who require such education, gave the names of the universities as Ogbong University, Akwa Ibom State; Caleb University, Ikosi, Lagos State; Fountain University, Osogbo, Osun State; Tansian University, Umunya, Anambra State; Veritas University in the Federal Capital Territory, Wesley University of Science and Technology, Ondo State and Western University, Oghara, Delta State.

The FEC meeting that took place yesterday also approved N778.9 million contract for the supply and installation of hydrogene plant at the Egbin Power Plant in Lagos State and another N2.3 billion for the provision of inclusive education for the physically challenged and gifted children in primary and secondary schools in the country for which 5,000 teachers have been targeted and three schools at the primary, junior secondary and senior secondary levels have been selected in each State of the federation for the take-off of the programme.
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The following is taken from a research paper a friend is currently working on, (not yet available for distribution but once it is, we'll send it to you upon request).

Almost half of consolidated government spending in Nigeria, however, is carried out by sub-national governments, and accountability mechanisms at a state level are virtually non-existent. This represents the single biggest deficiency in the Nigerian value chain—huge percentages of the country’s resource revenue are transferred in lump sums to officials who spend them at will. State governors create budgets with no public or legislative oversight, and state officials spend with almost no restraints on their behavior, follow ad-hoc or nonexistent procurement regulations, and rarely report on their activities.

As the World Bank’s Lev Freinkman puts it, “The state budget process is usually a theoretical exercise.” The budget-making process is usually seen as an almost purely discretionary act by the governor. Virtually all of Nigeria’s states have legislatures controlled by the same party as the governor, who usually doubles as party chair. As such, the legislative approval process rarely represents anything more than a rubber stamp. States almost never make proposed or approved budgets publicly available, and public comment during formulation is rare. Recent federal government efforts to promote greater accountability in state-level expenditure appear unlikely to move forward, stalled by constitutional arguments that they violate Nigeria’s federal system.
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Since we cannot overhaul the process by which the FEC makes its decisions, how can we make sure our governors are spending these funds on what they are meant to? and who gets to decide what projects the $$ should go to? Should the National Assembly ammend the constitution to accomodate the Fiscal Responsibility Bill? Thoughts please...

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Perhaps an amendment to the constitution in form of the Fiscal Responsibility Bill is the best way out although I do agree with the state governors that making them accountable to the federal government does tamper with their independence. I think the more useful mechanism for accountability or checks and balances would be using another branch of the government, either legislative or judiciary, and not executive.

More importantly, the 'budgets' and spending practices need to be made public and available to the constituents in each state so that we know how our governors spend the money and whether or not we should 'vote' to reinstate them at the end of their tenures.

In summary, there is no question that there needs to be A WHOLE LOT more accountability at the state and even the local level but I don't think it should be to the Federal Government. The last thing we need is to give people like Obasanjo more ways of carrying out their vendettas against political opponents. I think transparency and the use of the other branches of government should do the trick. Just a thought.

Misan said...

I agree, there definitely needs to be more accountability top to bottom, but who then enforces that? I think presently, accounts are meant to be open to the public, but States almost never make proposed or approved budgets publicly available. Public comment during the formulation of these budgets is nil.Noone ensures the governors and LG's do this. You're right though, that the last thing we need is more absolute power in the hands of the president.

Another option might be civil society groups, which are aimed at budget monitoring. They would act on behalf of the pp, and make sure this info is publicly available (in print and other media forms, and in person at the grassroots level). But who would set them up? and follow through? they'd have to be genuinely passionate about it, and be paid well enough so that they aren't tempted to accept bribes. I know for a fact that there's one for Kebbi state (an NGO called "Community Action for Popular Participation"), don't know how successful they've been but it's a start!

Confessions of a moody crab said...

What of independent auditors? Don't we have National Association of Auditors or something similar?The problem with my country is lack of grassroot participation....noone cares. National body of students, Teachers, doctors and co are suffering from perennial inertia. We are too lackadaisical to form coherent body of aggresive action(s)

afrofunkycool said...

The government is not the problem in Nigeria. For too long we have made them the scapegoat for our own failings. As someone who has worked in corporate Nigeria i daresay the private sector in Nigeria is more dangerous to us than the government. Who dosen't know of the culture of graft in most companies? Which bank lends to the working class? how many people can get jobs in the private labour market without some form of patronage or prostitution? The truth is that corruption has become a cultural thing so i fear we are beating the wrong horse!