By Eze Onyekpere

Transparency and accountability are critical inseparable twins necessary for good governance and the mainstreaming of the constitutional aphorism that the security and welfare of the people is the primary purpose of government. Transparency facilitates participation to the extent that citizens can only offer opinions on subjects that have sufficient information in the public domain. Citizens demand for accountability is also facilitated by access to information. This discourse reviews the performance of the Bola Ahmed Tinubu administration from the prism of fiscal transparency, especially within the contemplation of the Fiscal Responsibility Act.

S.48 (1) of the FRA provides that: “The Federal Government shall ensure that its fiscal and financial affairs are conducted in a transparent manner and accordingly ensure full and timely disclosure and wide publication of all transactions and decisions involving public revenues and expenditures and their implications for its finances”. The critical words in this provision include “transparent manner”, “full and timely disclosure”, “wide publication”, “of all transactions and decisions”, and “public revenues and expenditures”. It appears that there can be no better holistic provision for fiscal transparency and accountability that this subsection. The FRA further made specific provisions beyond this omnibus transparency demand.

In S.30, it provided for the responsibility of the Minister of Finance and the Budget Office of the Federation to monitor and report on implementation in these words:“(1) The Minister of Finance, through the Budget Office of the Federation, shall monitor and evaluate the implementation of the Annual Budget, assess the attainment of fiscal targets and report thereon on a quarterly basis to the Fiscal Responsibility Commission and the Joint Finance Committee of the National Assembly.(2) The Minister of Finance shall, cause the report prepared pursuant to subsection (1) of this section to be published in the mass and electronic media and on Ministry of Finance website, not later than 30 days after the end of each quarter”. This is another interesting and targeted provision stating clear responsibilities for named officers and fiscal institutions.

However, a visit to the website of the Budget Office of the Federation indicates that the last and only budget implementation report published by the administration is the first quarter of 2023. The timestamp shows that this report was published on October 4th 2023. There is no report for budget implementation in the second, third and fourth quarters of 2023. There is no full year or end year report for budget implementation in 2023.  Furthermore, the first quarter budget implementation report of 2024 has not been produced and published. However, these outstanding reports were due 30 days after the end of the respective quarters.

Related News

A visit to the website of the Budget Office of the Federation again shows that the federal government has been derelict in its duty to produce a Citizens’ Budget. There is no Citizens Budget for 2024. However, the citizens budget is available for previous years up to 2023.  The Citizens Budget is a simplified version of the government budget presented by the government that prepares and implements the budget. It is a guide that allows government to explain in plain language the objectives and major policies of the budget. It is proactive and reasonably timed so that it promotes citizens’ engagement. It is a fact of Nigerian life that discussions about the budget are done by “experts” and not by ordinary Nigerians. The Citizens Budget explains the budget in such a way and manner that allows understanding and participation by non-experts and the common people.

The Debt Management Office is another agency that seems to be enjoying keeping citizens in the dark. From the practice in previous years, Nigerians should have been briefed through publications on their website of the total outstanding debt and their breakdown as at 31stMarch 2024. But there is no information on the subject. The last debt profile update was for 31st December 2023 and this was posted on 22nd of March 2024. Beyond this delayed publication of debt statistics, the office has been derelict in the fulfillment of its obligations as mandated by S.44 (5) of the FRA.

The implication of the foregoing is that citizens are kept in the dark about the state of finances and debts, including revenues and expenditures of the federal government and public officials capitalize on this opaqueness to make dereliction of duties or mismanagement of resources a principal part of their mandate. On the 2024 budget performance, we have conflicting oil production figures from the Minister of Finance and the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation. So, who do we believe since there is no official report? How have other revenue sources for funding the 2024 federal budget fared? Are we meeting revenue targets?  Only the fiscal operatives know and they are keeping the information to themselves. The legislature is supposed to hold the executive to account on behalf of the people; they see nothing wrong in this scenario and simply mind their private businesses after being paid with tax payers money in the public interest.

The principle of transparency is crucial to the budgeting process, mandating that information affecting budget decisions on sources of funds and expenditure details, fiscal transformation, development thrusts and programmes, etc., should be timely, accurate, genuine and portray the true state of fiscal affairs. In addition, this information should be made available and accessible to the general public, open to public scrutiny, and written clearly and be readily understood by the public. Furthermore, transparency introduces the good qualities of integrity in the use of public resources; inclusiveness in harnessing public voices including the socially excluded groups, building up trust and improving the quality of public expenditure. Transparency is inextricably linked to accountability and popular participation (citizens engagement) in budgeting.

It has therefore become imperative for the afore discussed public officers and agencies to sit up and take their duties seriously and ensure full compliance with unambiguous statutory duties to provide information to the public. It is a minimum obligation which can be easily met by the authorities.

VERIFIED: Nigerians (home & diaspora) can now be paid in US Dollars. Earn up to $17,000 (₦27 million) with premium domains. Click here to start