The second most important document of any country is her budget. Budget is next to the constitution in terms of importance to the general living conditions of citizenry. While the constitutions contains the code of conducts of the leaders and the led, budget is more concerned with monetary aspect of governance as it affects addressing the needs of the people using available resources. Budget is based on monetary expectations which largely come from citizens through taxes. It is a recycle process through which monies generated from the people are used to provide them with their needs. Base on this, the most important scope of any budget be it national, state or Local government budget is to address the concern of the people with the view to making their lives better.
For any budget to be effective there should be a guiding document for projects selection and implementation. In the case of states, the complementary document for the budget is the State Development Plan (SDP). State Development Plan contains future plans of the government and the resources needed to meet them. It can be for 5years, 10years or more than that. One importance of SDP is, it makes government more institutional as whoever comes in as the leader must follow its dictates. SDP is subject to review from time to time in order to capture the emerging needs of the people for actions. Thus, a sound budgetary system needs a well articulated State Development Plan formed from the inputs of the general populace. SDP should be our topic of discussion for another day!
Like any other state, Katsina produces budget annually. The state budget is meant to serve the needs of the people of state in the areas of Education, Health, Agriculture, water supply, youth and women empowerment, rural development, urban development, and many others. The cardinal objective of a budget is to enable the people feel the impact of the government in all the facets of their lives.
An effective budget begins with the needs assessment. This makes government informed of what should be the contents of the budget based on the needs of the citizens. A budget should also be made accessible to all citizens. To make the budget accessible by the government, a summary of the budget document is reproduced in the local language in a form of handbill so that everybody can read what the government is proposing for her communities. This is called a ‘citizens budget’. Lagos state is an example of states where citizens’ budget is produced for the use of the people.
To make budget accessible to all, a state may also make its budget online for any interested citizen to read. In some state, the site do not only provides citizens access to the uploaded budget, but also provides room for comments on the projects captured in the budget. This affords citizens the opportunity to provide feedback to the government and promotes budget monitoring and tracking by the community. Most important also, it addresses the three concern of effective budgeting as Public participation, public ownership and public accountability!
Within the two years of the present administration of Katsina state there is some remarkable changes in the area of budgetary process. Most of these changes are at the enactment stage of the budget cycle. The Katsina state House of Assembly has been able to improve in the involvement of community members in the budgeting system of the state where in the past two years, the house use to dedicate a day for public hearing on the budget proposal anytime it was presented to the house for legislation. This was done to the 2016 and 2017 budget proposals. What is more interesting is that, the house noted and act accordingly, any valid and reasonable suggestion made by the public on the budget. This is commendable.
Another deviation from the past can vividly be seen on three key constituency projects introduced into the budget by the current house. These projects are rural electrification, Rural Feeder Roads and Construction of Earth Dams. This innovation has addressed the concern of lopsided implementation of the budget where some areas received more attention than others. The House has also performed creditably in pressing for more measures be taken by the revenue generating agencies in the state for the state to have improved Internally Generated Revenue.
On the side of the executive, it is commendable to note that within the last two years, the government halted implementation of stereotyped projects across the state. To some extent, projects are executed according to the needs. A situation where a number of houses or markets are built in all the Local Governments without considering the societal needs is no longer a characteristic of Katsina state budget.
However, to make the Katsina state budget more effective and transparent, the executive needs to involve the public in all the stages of budget process. At the formulation stage, the government needs to be conducting town hall meetings, Focused Group Discussions, Round table discussions, etc with the view to generating issues that can be addressed through budgetary provisions. Katsina state also needs to have a sound and well articulated State development plan that is formulated through the input of the general public.
At the budget implementation level, the government needs to give room for public monitoring and tracking by publishing projects specifications. All things need to be open. A believe that budget is an exclusive document of the government and should not be made public has to go away. Budget is a public document. It is made to address the needs of the public and therefore, the government should do everything possible to make it accessible to all. It is our hope that, by 2018, Katsina state will start producing Citizens budget and the budget documents be made online!
At the Evaluation level, the public should be given room for feedbacks through direct engagements and media programs; Auditor General’s and Accountant General’s reports on the budget performance need to be publicised on due time.
The government also needs to improve in its revenue derive. Public sensitization on payment of taxes and blocking revenue leakages should receive more attention as no meaningful budget implementation can take place without generating more funds internally. And the best way for generating more revenue internally is through accountability and openness in the spending process of the government. This would make the people willing to contribute more by observing their responsibility of paying their taxes regularly and promptly. There are lots of ways through which the government can improve on its revenue generation (It is going to be our topic of discussion in another day In shaa Allah).
Finally, I want remind Governor Aminu Bello Masari of one important campaign promise he made that he would be telling the Katsina state people (From time to time) how much money comes to the state and how it was spent if elected as the governor! This will no doubt make the governance more transparent and stimulates the people do more, in promoting revenue generation in the state!
AbdurRahman Abdullahi Dutsin-ma is the Coordinator, Katsina state Budget Awareness Initiative