Annual budget critical to planning, development—Saraki

SENATE President, Dr Bukola Saraki, on Monday, restated the commitment of the eighth National Assembly on budget reforms, which would help open the budget process to greater scrutiny and openness.

Speaking during the inauguration of the Committee on Budget Reforms, Saraki said one of the most important duties as legislators was the passage of the annual budget, which was a critical tool for national planning.

The lawmaker noted that budget reforms implementation would also create time roadmaps that would lead to the passage and implementation of the nation’s budgets.

He said “over the years, both the National Assembly and the Executive have expressed frustration and dissatisfaction with the outcome of our budgets,” adding that “Nigerians are equally unimpressed by the outcome and implementation of the budget, as most have come with more conflicts than results.”

He, however, maintained that the eighth National Assembly was ready to open a new chapter and lay a new foundation on which an effective budget process can be built, assuring that it was a task before the legislature that must be achieved.

According to him, “this is the task on our hands. It is a notorious fact that our annual budgets are yet to be fully been aligned with our development goals; from conceptualisation approval and implementation of our annual budget, there is need to converge our budgeting to national planning, continuity, efficiency hence, the need to revisit the process.

“Government operations are less susceptible to corruption and abuse when they are predictable, transparent and accountable. As part of leading by example, we are at the final stage of releasing of our Senate Budget process,” he said.

He added that the Senate was expected to receive a comprehensive budget reform proposal that would aid the passage of a budget bill at the end of the committees’ assignment.

Chairman of the main committee and Senate Leader, Senator Ali Ndume, noted that the both committees would enhance effectiveness of legislative participation in budget process for the benefit of all.

Also, the chairperson of the technical committee and the Director-General, Nigerian Institute of Legislative Studies (NILS), Dr Ladi Hamalai, said the committee would adopt a methodology that would span pre-budget, budget approval and budget implementation processes.

She said the issues that were raised and would be the focus of study were that the current budget process was evidently opaque and did not allow for effective discussion or review of the budget.

Others listed by her include ambiguity of responsibility in the budget process; lack of discipline; weak link between plans, budgets and development; absence of resolution on budget procedure to regulate in-house processes, and limited interrogation to infuse efficiency and effective linkage to national development.

Hamalai identified inadequate scrutiny of details of the budget at the sectoral level by committee of the whole; inadequate regulations and procedures for checking inefficiency; and absence of performance evaluation reports of previous budgets and incomplete information.

Others, according to her, included low capacity to scrutinise submissions by MDAs; poor management of reconciliation processes; poor oversight scheme and planning; irregular rendition of Quarterly implementation Status Report by the MDAs; absence of continuous legislative oversight structure within MDAs and inadequate budget impact assessment scheme.