By Chioma Ndife
Sequel to the analysis on Budget publication carried out within states of the federation, Anambra State, alongside other Southeast states, has failed the recent open and accessible budget rating conducted by BudgIT.
This was made known during a Town Hall Meeting organized by the Justice Development Peace Caritas (JDPC) for trainees in the on-going Community and Legislative Members Interactive Platform (CLIP) project.
Quoting BudgIT, a data collection and analysis group, Chuka Okafor, the chief discussant on budgeting process, while presenting a paper on ''The Need for Open and Accessible Budget in Anambra State'', said that only 15 states in Nigeria published their budgets and only 13 out of them had their budgets clearly stated with timelines and indicated who was responsible for what. He also noted that no Southeastern state had made the list of states that ran an open and accessible budget.
'The only thing they provide is a summary of the budget in different places. If it were accessible, it should have indicators that are clear and detailed,' he said.
He also noted that many lawmakers did not hold Town Hall Meetings in the budget planning stage to get the community charter of demand, saying that BudgiT, a non-governmental organization, observed a nose dive in open and accessible budget index.
'Anambra State presented a 170 billion Appropriation Bill for 2018 but this budget is yet to be accessible to the public,' Okafor stated.
He noted that lack of open and accessible budget triggered corruption, embezzlement of public funds and lack of accountability among office holders, saying that It was the responsibility of the state government to publish detailed budget both of the state and local government as soon as it was assented to and the duty of civil societies to pressurize government to do so.
He said that elected legislators should periodically hold meetings with their constituencies to fill them in on government policies, even as he also pointed out that most corrupt practices happened in the contract bidding and award stage of budget implementation.
Speaking at the event, Chioma Okeke, a participant, noted that questions asked during campaigns were usually doctored while issue based questions were silenced. She also expressed worry that given that the government did not publish the budget, it was difficult to know the basis for holding the government accountable.
Another discussant said the people were complacent over the budgetary process. She blamed PGs for hoarding the templates for community charter of demand, noting that some representatives did not use the constituency allowances. She encouraged participants to be more proactive in their activities.
A community leader said that one of the problems that arose when preparing the charter of demand was that some of the people involved tended to get selfish when determining the projects that would appear in the charter of demand.
Participants at the programme collectively suggested that the JDPC should organize capacity trainings for community leaders who spear headed preparation of charters of demand.
Earlier while speaking on the need for the Town Hall Meeting, the Project Director, Rev. Fr. Simon Anigbogu, said it was important for the electorate to form a formidable force, noting that the politicians came to them soliciting for votes during elections. He pointed out that it was expected of members of the forum to come up with campaign messages that would be presented to politicians when they came to campaign in their various communities.
He said that the programme was geared towards promoting good governance through effective communication between legislators and those they represented.
He said that the capacity building sessions were meant to equip them to go back and train their community members on how to engage their legislators, even as he reiterated that the basic function of the legislators was that of law making.
Samuel Onyeka Ololo, the JDPC project officer who moderated the session, appreciated all who attended and enjoined them to sensitize others within their sphere of influence in their various communities.