Communique Issued After The First Annual Southeast Summit On Budget Access And Participation Organized By Citizens Centre For Integrated Development And Social Rights (CCIDESOR) In Collaboration With Southeast Governance Network And Zero Corruption Coalition On Thursday, 16 May, 2013 In Owerri, Imo State.
The Citizens Centre for Integrated Development and Social Rights (CCIDESOR) in collaboration with South East Governance Network and Zero Corruption Coalition organized the first Annual Southeast Summit on Budget Access and Participation in Owerri Imo State on Thursday, May 16, 2013.
The summit was organized to contribute to improving governance in the Southeast, particularly as it relates to democratic participation of which the budget process is an integral part. It was aimed at enhancing citizens’ economic literacy and participation in the budget process from conception to implementation so as to reduce corruption.
Participants were drawn from government agencies, town unions, women and youth groups, media, professional associations, labour unions, the traditional institution, political parties and civil society organizations.
There were representatives from the NGO Unit, offices of the Senate President, Chairman, National Human Rights Commission; Abia, Anambra and Imo state governments.
Participants made the following observations:
1. That in all the Southeast states of Anambra, Abia, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo, the process of budget making has remained opaque and there is an unacceptable lack of citizens involvement and participation in the budget making process;
2. That access to budget by citizens in the zone also remains difficult making it difficult for citizens to participate in post-election governance activities
3. That despite huge resources accruing to the zone annually as allocations from the federation account, internally generated revenues and other sources, the level of underdevelopment, impoverishment and insecurity in the zone continues to get worse;
4. That the absence of transparency and accountability in governance makes corruption possible and facilitates criminality. Corruption also denies the people the resources for development, progress and improved wellbeing;
5. Citizens lack the awareness that their participation in the budget process and access to the budget are both their civic duty and fundamental right;
6. That citizens have a right to monitor and demand accounts of how their resources are managed by public officials and to hold them accountable;
7. That in all the five states in the Southeast, ineffective bureaucracy has impeded the laid down constitutional process of budget making, leading to undue delay in the passage and implementation of budgets;
8. That although the budget has been recognized as the second most important legal document next to the Constitution and that it impacts on the economic wellbeing of citizens, the people are neither involved in the budget making process nor allowed access to it when passed;
9. That civil society organizations have not adequately discharged their mandate to create public awareness of the importance of the budget in the lives of the people and their right to demand to be part of the budget process;
10. That elected representatives have failed to provide effective representation for the people, by carrying them along in the budget process; and periodically consulting and interacting with them in order to give account of their stewardship.
11. That there has been an apparent attempt by technocrats in government to mystify the budget process, hiding under the cloak of technicality to alienate the people from participating in the process.
12. From all indication, states only publish their annual budgets after implementation, making it difficult for citizens to monitor implementation and get more involved in governance and post-election activities
13. That without access to budget, it is difficult for citizens to assess the extent of fraud, waste and abuse of public resources by elected representatives. It is also difficult to evaluate the performance of elected representatives.
1. Governments in the Southeast zone must open up the budget process and allow citizen involvement and participation in the process as a matter of right.
2. Governments must as a matter of obligation, make state and local government budgets readily accessible immediately it is accented to both in hard copy and electronically
3. Governments must faithfully implement the budget, which is a law, as passed. This, if done, would impact positively on the lives and economic wellbeing of the people.
4. Governments must be transparent and accountable in budgeting and other governance processes as this will curb corruption that diverts public resources.
5. Civil society groups should intensify efforts in their mandate to create widespread public awareness of the citizens’ civic obligations to participate in the budget and governance processes. This should include the use of available laws as means to demand access to public information.
6. Civil society should increase the capacity of citizens to monitor the budget and to hold public officials accountable for its implementation.
7. Governments should remove the unnecessary bureaucracy and administrative bottlenecks that impede the process of budget making
8. Elected representatives should be statutorily mandated to periodically hold meetings and consultations with their constituents and take back to them any and all laws passed by them.
9. The civil society should mobilize the people to be involved in the advocacy for improved and credible electoral process that guarantees that credible persons will be elected into public offices.
10. Participants note and commend the emerging development in the budget process in Anambra State where community members are involved at the initial stages of the budget process. However, these community inputs must be made to reflect in the final budget and the budget made accessible to them upon assent.
11. Beyond the existing anti-corruption laws, there should be an amendment to promote good governance by ensuring the anti-corruption laws are amended to mandate states and LGAs to make available their annual budgets to relevant planning agencies at federal, state and local levels
12. The summit on budget should be an annual event where the fiscal discipline and transparency of elected representatives are evaluated and rated. The summit should also be taken to other geopolitical zones as a major step to eradicate corruption in public life.
13. Communities, NGOs and other stakeholders should urgently demand for copies of their state and LGA budgets using the Freedom of Information Act.
1 Emeka Ononamadu
Citizens Centre for Integrated Development and Social Rights
2 Jude Ohanele
Southeast Governance Network
3 Tunde Oluajo
Zero Corruption Coalition
4 Dr. I.I. Onwubuya
Chairman Anambra state Association for Town Unions.