The Speaker, House of Representatives, Honourable Aminu Tambuwal, on Monday, clamoured for synergy between the executive and legislative arms of government in the implementation of the country's annual budget stressing that, "over the years, the degrees at which budgets are implemented have fallen to very low levels."
The speaker, who stated this at a stakeholders' forum on budget performance, organised by the House Committee on Appropriation in Abuja also mooted the idea of having a law in place to compel the implementation of the budget by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), saying that the National Assembly would expedite action on such a proposal, if stakeholders forwarded same. Tambuwal, who spoke at the event themed: "Towards a More Effective Budget Implementation in Nigeria" said, "we hope that all arms of government, especially the legislature and executive will learn to build the kind of synergy that will encourage budget implementation and reduce poverty in the land."
He further said, "over the years, the degrees at which budgets are implemented have fallen to very low levels. Some of the consequences are now obvious to all. Spiralling unemployment, rising crime, breathtaking poverty, collapsed infrastructure, poor social service delivery, poor industrial base, and a nation littered with abandoned federal projects and programmes.
According to him, "the principles of separation of powers, checks and balances and other salient safeguards against dictatorship are all embedded in the simple regulations that govern the budgeting process. The Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, while giving her keynote address, also called for a closer collaboration between the legislative and executive arms of government.
"The truth is that no other function of government has as much impact on the well-being of the people, their chances of benefiting from a functional government, than the Budget. A well thought out and clinically executed budget has the power to transform the economy, redistribute wealth, open up opportunities, energise the public sector, reduce poverty and unemployment and guarantee the well-being of the people", he said.
The identified loopholes in the implementation of the annual budget he said necessitated the stakeholders forum "aimed at identifying the main constraints to effective budget implementation and monitoring is very critical. As elected representatives, we are limited in the opportunities we have to directly ensure the provision of basic amenities to our constituents. But if we can ensure that budgets get implemented thoroughly we would have done our bit in that regard".
In this regard, the speaker maintained that, "I know that there are some in the executive who think we should show less interest in the Budgeting process. Unfortunately, we cannot afford to do so not just because budgets are very vital to the development of our societies but also because it is our Constitutional duty to ensure that Budgets are well implemented. While the responsibility for initiating, preparing, and implementing the Budget lies with the Executive, the National Assembly has a duty to consider and approve the Budget, and through its oversight functions, to ensure effective implementation. However, this has been one of our most difficult and controversial assignments".
He however said that,"it is tough trying to monitor or track budgets in Nigeria. There are many reasons for this of course. There is the fact that years of military rule has rubbed off on us to the extent that the very idea that one could question the budget from the Executive arm still seems like an affront to some. There is also the structural deficiencies of the public service system which gives people authority without in anyway holding them responsible if they fail to discharge those responsibilities. There is also the weak auditing system, lack of adequate data, and the cash-based accounting system in practice today which does not equate allocation with performance". The House Committee Chairman on Appropriations, Honourable John Enoh had earlier spoke where he described budget formulation and implementation as critical to challenges in the budgeting process.
He maintained that budget was key in efforts aimed at addressing the huge infrastructural challenges currently facing the country in areas of power and transport.