Sub-National Budget Transparency Survey Report 2015
Budgets are the most powerful tool that a state government has to translate policies into concrete actions. State governments, however, have limited resources and are charged with the task of allocating these funds to a variety of sectors. There is a growing consensus among governments (at various levels), civil society, and international financial institutions on the importance of budget transparency to ensure accountability and efficient use of public resources.
To fully understand the importance and the tangible benefits of budget transparency, one needs to view public finance as an accountability ecosystem. In Nigerian states, the actors in this ecosystem are state governors along with ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), Hon. Members in the State Houses of Assembly (SHoA), auditors general, civil society organizations (CSOs), and the media. Each accountability actor in the accountability ecosystem has a role to play to ensure that state government budgets are efficient, realistic, and linked to development plans.
For state governors and commissioners, budget transparency legitimizes government spending of public money by making budget information available to the public to influence and monitor. Budget transparency also gives CSOs and the media the opportunity to open constructive channels of dialogue between the state government and CSOs in order to make public spending more effective and efficient. Budget transparency and public hearings during the budget approval process in the SHoA give CSOs the ability to bridge the gap between government and the needs of the people. The role of the state auditor-general in the accountability ecosystem is to provide external budget oversight. Overall, budget transparency facilitates the work of all of these actors in their accountability roles.
Budget transparency alone is not sufficient to ensure accountability. CSOs are key to closing the gap between transparency and accountability. Open spaces for participation throughout the budget process are essential to ensuring that the budget reflects the needs of Nigerians. Participation without readily available budget information, however, is not effective. When CSOs have access to easily understandable budget information, it helps bridge the gap between government institutions and citizens, and builds trust between citizens and state governments.
Given the importance of budget transparency described here, this report will measure the level of budget transparency, open spaces for public participation, and sound and transparent procurement systems of state governments in Nigeria.
The International Budget Partnership (IBP), a Washington-based international non-governmental organization, developed the Open Budget Survey (OBS) to measure budget transparency, oversight of the budget, and spaces for public participation of national-level budget systems around the world. Given the importance of state governments in PFM and service delivery, CIRDDOC developed the Nigerian Sub-national Budget Transparency Survey to assess transparency and participation of budget systems and transparency of procurement processes in all 36 Nigerian states. The survey was conducted between July and December 2014. The survey consists of a multiple-choice questionnaire evaluating:
- Timely publication of budget documents and information;
- Open spaces for public participation throughout the budget process; and
- Sound and transparent procurement processes and systems.
The Survey went through a rigorous process among independent research experts who play one role or the other to check and review at every stage what is being done. Those involved in the process include the State Researchers, CIRDDOC’s Consultants, Independent/ Expert Reviewers and Government’s officials.
Recommendations contained in the survey report are as follows;
- States should endeavour to publish more budget information – even on the web
- Institutionalization of spaces for effective public participation in the budget process
- State governments should publish Citizens Budget’.
- Provide more opportunities for public participation in the budget process.
- The procurement process in States should be regulated by legislation and have an open, competitive, and transparent awarding process
The clear message of this project is that the Budget, a document that seeks to impact on the general public should be available and accessible. Such a document should also be gender sensitive and gender responsive. Evidence shows that when citizens have access to information and opportunities to participate in the budget process they are able to improve the decisions made about what to spend public money on and the quality of how the money is actually spent. That means that the allocation of scarce public resources is more equitable and effective.