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Nigeria slips behind Zimbabwe in Budget Transparency Index

Africa’s acclaimed largest economy ranks low in its budgetary performance in a recent report compiled and released by global Budget Transparency Index.

The report indicates that in Africa, Nigeria takes 23rd position on the index, far behind Zimbabwe, Benin Republic, Uganda, Liberia, Rwanda and 17 other African countries. The nation’s current score on the open budget index has, however, dropped from 24 recorded between 2015 and 2017.

The report based its ranking on the fact that the Federal Government of Nigeria does not provide her citizens with sufficient budget information, making it difficult for taxpayers to understand how elected officials are utilising available resources.

Also, the budget process takes very little feedback from the public, and the final budget document does not reveal how the meagre feedbacks are used, despite persistent advocacy by citizens and repeated promises by the government to improve.

On the world standing, Nigeria slips into 90th place behind Afghanistan and other developing countries. The Open Budget Index assesses the comprehensiveness and timeliness of budget information that governments make publicly available.

Nigeria’s low rank can be blamed on the inconsistent culture of the Federal Government in making budgetary reviews and implementation details available to the public.

It is observed that the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and the Budget Implementation Reports for 2017 and other previously signed budgets have either been published late or not at all. Even the information published is not always comprehensive, especially on the performances of the budgets.

The report also revealed that the content of all budget documents produced in Nigeria “falls short of the minimum acceptable global standard, as itemised in the Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency Framework.”

To overturn the ranking, a civic platform that publishes the nation’s budgetary allocations and those of states, BudgIT, has suggested that the Federal Government should improve the timeliness of the release of its essential budget documents and run an open budget system.

“It is vital that Nigeria improves on the comprehensiveness of the critical budget documents, including the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF), the Budget Implementation Reports, the executive budget proposal, the enacted budget and the year-end report,” the organization said on its website.

Among other suggestions, BudgiT added that the country also needs to produce and publish a mid-year review of fiscal activities in line with the minimum global standard in budgeting.

“There is also an urgent need for a structured participatory mechanism designed to capture views of the public throughout the budget cycle.”

The nation’s 2018 budget size is N8.612 trillion (16 % higher than 2017 estimates) is based on a benchmark crude oil price of US$45 per barrel. Oil production estimate is 2.3 million barrels per day, exchange rate of N305/US$, real GDP growth of 3.5 per cent with an inflation rate of 12.4 per cent.

Meanwhile, the proposed aggregate expenditure of N 8.612 trillion will comprise a recurrent cost of N3.494 trillion, debt service of N2.014 trillion, statutory transfers of about N456 billion, sinking fund of N220 billion (to retire maturing bond to local contractors) and a meagre capital expenditure of N2.428 trillion (excluding the capital component of statutory transfers).

The bill has been criticized for being skewed against capital expenditure; even the little allocation has no direct bearing on the common Nigerians, as a larger chunk is allotted for purchase of new automobiles and other servicing costs for top government officials.

Article by: Tersoo Agber

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