By; Patrick Titus, Uyo.
Akwa Ibom State is ranked fourth with 29 percent while Cross River tops 72.67 to emerge the most transparent, accountable and participatory state in budgeting and procurement process for 2015 survey carried out by Civil Resource Development and Documentation Centre (CIRDDOC) for South South states in Nigeria.
This finding was made public by CIRDDOC at the recent South- South zonal launch of the 2015 Nigerian State Budget Transparency Survey Results in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital.
CIRDDOC is an independent, Non-governmental and non-profit organisation established in 1996 for the protection and promotion of human rights, strengthening civil society and the institutionalization of good governance.
According to the findings which were carried out in partnership with UKAid and International Budget Partnership to arrive at their survey results, Rivers State scored 32.67 percent, Delta 29.33 percent, Bayelsa 22.67 percent and Edo 8 percent.
Presenting the report, the reviewer and South – South zonal consultant to the organization, Dr. Uchechi Ogbuagu said that, the areas focused on in the survey include; Public Availability of Key Budget Document, Public Participatory in The Budget Process, Availability of Information on Public Procurement, Information and fiscal Responsibility.
In the ranking classification on availability of key budget documents, Rivers State scored 14 percent, Edo 11 percent, Delta 32 percent, Cross River 77 percent, Bayelsa 45 percent, Akwa Ibom7 percent. According to Ogbuagu, the survey result in this classification shows the extent the public easily access key budget documents.
On public participation in the budget process, Rivers State scored 14 percent, Edo 3 percent, Delta 39 percent, Cross River 78 percent, Bayelsa 0 percent and Akwa Ibom 50 percent.
Report indicated that only in Akwa Ibom state that inputs from their feedback system of reporting are used while public engagement during audit is practiced in Delta and Edo states where the Auditor General’s office maintains formal mechanisms through which the public can participate in audit process.
On availability of information for public procurement, Rivers state scored 70 percent, Edo 10 percent Delta 17 percent, Cross River 63 percent, Bayelsa 23 percent and Akwa Ibom 30 percent. For Delta and Edo, information on public tenders were not available, while information on awarded contracts for community projects were not published in Bayelsa but other states in this zone do.
In line with good governance principles, states ought to have Fiscal Responsibility Law that regulates transparency and accountability within and across organizations. This entails the domestication of the state freedom of information law. However the survey results from this zone established that, freedom of Information Act does not exist in all the six states.
In her address, the executive director of CIRDDOC, Oby Nwankwo represented by a director in CIRDDOC, Engr. Ralph Ndigwe said that access to information and opportunities to participate in budget process by citizen improved the decisions on what to spend public money on and the quality of how the money is spent would be greatly enriched.
In his keynote address at the launch, Mr. Idongesit Ekpo, Head Directorate of International Cooperation of Akwa Ibom State Ministry of Economic Development, described the project as novel and laudable especially now that the country was battling with the issues of budget transparency as evidenced in the 2016 budget presented by the Executive to the Legislature.
“This therefore underscores the need for an open transparent and participatory budget and procurement process as a panacea for ending looting and misappropriation of public funds that could otherwise be used for development purposes”, Mr. Ekpo stated.
It was the general opinion of participants at the presentation of the report that the process highlighted by CIRDDOC will not only democratize decision making process in governance but would also enhance the people ensuring that projects in their communities are completed to specification and on time because they will hold contractors liable for any misconduct.
By; Patrick Titus, Uyo.