Budget: Govt should give infrastructure funding priority, says expert
Federal Government should ensure that a large part of the of the N8.6 trillion budget for 2017 targets infrastructure, Chief Executive Officer, BudgiT, a civic organization promoting transparency in governance, Seun Onigbinde, has said.
Speaking yesterday during the maiden edition of the ‘Meet-The-Executive’ organized by the Finance Correspondents Association of Nigeria (FICAN) in Lagos, Lagos, he said conversations of budget should involve everyone, because the impact of its full and efficient implementation or otherwise, also falls on the people.
Onigbinde, who spoke on the theme: “Budget Analysis, Monitoring and Implementation: The Role of Financial Journalists”, said there is need to ensure effective budget monitoring and implementation, insisting that government should bring accountability and probity to public finance spending.
“A large part of the budget should go to infrastructure financing. Government has to work very hard since it has limited time to prove its mettle as the 2019 elections approaches,” he said.
He said government needs to diversify its revenue base, and to enable it achieve its developmental objectives. “Many people are looking at this budget to see if there will be actual tangible achievement in it. The budget has to be quickly passed because we have a short period of governance next year. We have a lot of time for politicking. But before the politicking, let’s have the budget quickly passed and implemented,” he said.
He explained that most of the assumptions for the revenue in the budget is bloated and said there is need to build and develop new strategies to attract more revenues. How are going to build other streams of income opportunities. There are huge assumptions on revenue. How are going to expand revenues from taxes. How are we going to raise Value Added Tax (VAT). Projections today shows that oil prices will continue to rise,” he said.
He also said that all hands must be on the deck when it comes to budget discussion, adding that how public finances are spent should concern everyone, and urged Nigerians to intelligent input into such expenditures.
Onigbinde also insisted that budget should focus on quality service delivery, implementation, and audit of whatever projects that have been executed using public finances. “After the projects in the budget has been effectively executed, there is need to audit the projects to ensure that transparency and quality value delivery,” he said.
According to him, only projects listed in the budget can be financed through it, and urged the people to ensure that present projects that have community benefits for funding through public finances.
He said many state budgets are wishful lists, because the budgets are far higher than the state’s revenue bases. He said the performance of the budget and demand accountability on the part of the government.
“If government says the law demands that I pay my taxes, then they should also know that I have the right to know how the money is spent. We need to ensure that the resources of government are well spent. Public interest has to be a priority in spending public finances,” he said.
On the award of contract, he said everyone has the right to bid and execute government contracts. “Contracts should be made available for everyone to decide if he or she can win and implement it. It should not be given to people based on familiarity,” he said.
Foreign debts not good for economy, says BudgiT CEO
The Chief Executive Officer of BudgiT, Seun Onigbinde, has urged states in to desist from acquiring more foreign debts saying the burden of paying back in foreign currency will impact their revenues.
Onigbinde also called for a review of the constitution to allow for transparency on the parts of state governments to make public the details of their budget and the implementation.
Speaking yesterday at the maiden edition of the ‘Meet The Executive’ organised by the Finance Correspondents Association of Nigeria (FICAN) in Lagos, he said this will enable citizens to hold the government accountable.
BudgiT had recently challenged some state governments for not making available their budget for 2017. Onigbinde however, said the state governments are not bound by law to make public their spending books. “There is no law that says the state government has to give out its budget. So, what we need is continuous advocacy. At the next constitutional review, we should put forward the issue of transparency, and why state governments should publish their budgets. We need to build up a moral issue around it,” he stated.
On foreign debts of states, he said states do not have the luxury of earning foreign exchange to pay off their foreign borrowings and they remain at the mercy of the exchange rate variations. Citing the Lagos- Badagry expressway project as an example Onigbinde said: “When you assume something was packaged by private people and World Bank was involved, you would assume that standard ethics would have followed”.