Budget: Citizens’ engagement key to good governance ― Kwara governor

Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq of Kwara State on Tuesday said citizens’ aspirations will always drive budget process under his administration as part of a larger strategy to deepen participatory democracy and ensure good governance.

“Democracy is all about people. It is meaningless when the people are shut out of the processes of governance which in fact revolves around them and their wellbeing. This is the reason we have called this meeting to allow you to make inputs into the budget process” the governor said at a town hall meeting on citizens’ engagement in the budget process in Ilorin in which citizens suggested things they want reflecting in the budget.

The first of its kind in the state, Abdulrazaq said the platform would be widened next year to allow for wider participation of the citizens and promised to ensure that people’s aspirations are reflected in the budget outcome and implementations.

He also said the process would be fast-tracked to meet the January-December budget cycle, promising heavy investment in social infrastructure, agriculture and human capital development.

ALSO READ: Bauchi to spend N167b in 2020 fiscal year

“While budgeting has always been an annual ritual where the government outlines its priority areas for the next fiscal year, this is the first time in our state that we are seeking the direct inputs of the citizenry to budget. It is the first time citizens are to say what they think the government should prioritise in the next financial year,” he said.

“This kind of citizen participation is an ingredient of participatory democracy and good governance as defined by various global bodies, including the World Bank. We note that the lack of such direct engagement of the citizens in budget preparation in the past was frowned at during a recent assessment of Kwara’s compliance with global best standards and our administration promised to address it immediately.”

Meanwhile, the governor has passed a vote of confidence in the current leadership of the Kwara State Internal Revenue Service (KWIRS) which he absolved of any involvement in the recent allegations of fund mismanagement.

He said there’s an on ongoing house cleaning to ensure that such a thing never happens again, insisting that public funds are a trust that must be guided jealously.

“(The whole investigation) has nothing to do with the current management of the KWIRS. The KWIRS is waxing stronger, reorganising and moving forward. I have confidence in the leadership of the KWIRS to move Kwara to the next level. EFCC will do its jobs. We’ll allow them to do their jobs and we will all be better for it,” he said.

The event was attended by dozens of civil society organisations, faith-based organisations, community-based organisations and civil servants who all lauded AbdulRazaq for the town hall meeting.

“You promised participatory governance and what you promised is what we are getting,” community development expert Lawal Olohungbebe said, however urging the Governor to establish a bureau of integrated rural development to cater to the needs of some 70% of Kwarans who reside in the countryside.

Bola Olojoku, head of the Mekunu Forum Agenda, commended the government for the initiative which he said was the first in the recent time in Kwara, urging the government to ensure that citizens are aware of who wins what contract for effective follow up at the grassroots.

Ayobola Olupinla, the chairperson of the National Association of Women Journalists in Kwara, urged the government to do more to include women in governance.