As Executive, NASS partner on improving budget process
Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Prince Clem Ikanade Agba, has advocated the “power of one team” between the Executive and the Legislature in the budget process to produce better results.
Speaking at a two-day retreat/workshop in Lagos on the Federal Government of Nigeria Budget Process jointly hosted by the Budget Office of the Federation/National Assembly Appropriation Committees (BOF/NASS), Agba commended the new approach and effort towards promoting interaction on the annual budget between the arms of the Federal Government.
He said the interaction, which was initiated ahead of the presentation of the 2021 Federal Government budget proposals to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari, would enhance cooperation, mutual understanding and partnership in the entire budget process.
While assuring members of the National Assembly that the Executive would deepen consultations on the budget process, the minister took the advantage of the occasion to highlight some of the outlooks of the Federal Government towards the implementation of the 2020 budget.
He said the Federal Government would continue to ensure effective and efficient utilisation of revenue and prioritisation of various critical projects in identified key areas.
Emphasising that “our focus will be adequate funding of key projects in line with the key priority areas”, Agba said that this focus, in addition to enhancing revenue utilization, was at the heart of Federal Government’s cash management policy.
Agba also stressed the need for legislative cooperation in minimising the duplication of agencies, which he said resulted in high overhead and additional bureaucracies.
The minister further canvassed a situation in which capital budget should move from headquarters to the relevant agencies executing the projects.
In response to questions, he justified the envelope system of budgeting, saying “it is to help ensure focus on key priority areas.”
Director General of the Budget Office of the Federation, Mr Ben Akabueze stressed the need for an organic budget law, inclusion of strict budget calendar and Budget Office in the law, pointing out that there should be appropriate legislation to strengthen National Assembly Budget and Research Office (NABRO) as the key resource agency for the National Assembly.
Akabueze said there should also be a process to formalise budget consultations between the executive and the appropriation committees of the National Assembly, adding that feedback from these consultations would be included in the budget to be submitted by the President.
Senator Sabi Abdullahi said that the objectives of the budget should be to address the welfare issues of the people; development challenges, including insecurity, poverty and unemployment; even as he agreed that budget should align with key government priorities.
Hon. Princess Marian Onuoha said that budget should be based on population to be able to match rise in population figures, adding that there should be participatory budgeting to enhance ownership of the budget by the Nigerian people.
She said there had been unrealistic items in the budget and repetition of some items year after year in addition to poor releases.
She added that Government-Owned Enterprises (GOEs) were not adhering to Fiscal Responsibility act, and stressed the need for the Legislature to improve oversight on these agencies.
Senator Abba Moro, who said that the retreat should have taken place much earlier, stated that the Legislature should be involved at the beginning of the planning/budgeting process to eliminate the issue of budget padding.
Hon. Mark Gbillah said that budgeting should be dynamic, adding that monitoring and evaluation (M & E) mechanisms should be strengthened while project prioritisation should be done in collaboration with the Legislature.
Hon Julius Ihonvbere said, among other issues, that Legislatures were more knowledgeable about their constituencies than the executives and hence the need to consult them in project prioritisation.