SENATE President, Dr. Bukola Saraki yesterday restated the commitment of the 8th National Assembly to implement budget reforms that would help open the budget process to greater scrutiny and openness. Saraki, while inaugurataing the Committees on Budget Reforms in Abuja, said “one of our most important duties as legislators is the passage of the annual budget, a critical tool for national planning”. He therefore noted that budget reforms implementation would also create time roadmaps that would lead to the passage and implementation of the nation’s budgets. According to him, “over the years, both the National Assembly and the Executive have expressed frustration and dissatisfaction with the outcome of our budgets”, adding that “Nigerians are equally unimpressed by the outcome and implementation of the budget, as most have come with more conflicts than results”. Saraki, however, maintained that the 8th National Assembly was
ready to open a new chapter and lay a new foundation on which an effective budget process can be built, assuring that it was a task before the legislature that must be achieved. He said: “This is the task on our hands. It is a notorious fact that our annual budgets are yet to be fully aligned with our development goals; from conceptualisation approval and implementation of our annual budget, there is need to converge our budgeting to National planning, continuity, efficiency, hence the need to revisit the process”. “Government operations are less susceptible to corruption and abuse when they are predictable, transparent and accountable”. Saraki also informed, “As part of leading by example, we are at the final stage of releasing of our Senate Budget process”. He said the Senate is expected to receive a comprehensive budget reform proposal that will aid the passage of a budget bill at the end of the committees’ assignment. Earlier, chairman of the committee and Senate Leader ,
Senator Ali Ndume noted that the both committees would enhance effectiveness of legislative participation in budget process for the benefit of all. Also, chairperson of the technical committee and the Director General, Nigerian Institute of Legislative Studies, NILS, Dr. Ladi Hamalai, said the committee would adopt a methodology that would span pre- budget, budget approval and budget implementation processes. According to her, issues that were raised and would be the focus of study, are that the current budget process is evidently opaque and does not allow for effective discussion or review of the budget. Some others listed by her include ambiguity of responsibility in the budget process; lack of discipline; weak link between plans, budgets and development; absence of resolution on budget procedure to regulate in-house processes, and limited interrogation to infuse efficiency and effective linkage to national development. Hamalai also identified inadequate
scrutiny of details of the budget at the sectoral level by Committee of the Whole; inadequate regulations and procedures for checking inefficiency; and absence of performance evaluation reports of previous budgets and incomplete information. Others include low capacity to scrutinise submissions by MDAs; poor management of reconciliation processes; poor oversight scheme and planning; irregular rendition of Quarterly implementation Status Report by the MDAs; absence of continuous legislative oversight structure within MDAs; and inadequate budget impact assessment scheme. She assured that the technical and main Committees would work assiduously within the next two months to achieve the expected outputs of a strategy paper and budget reform law. According to her, the economic challenges that have bedevilled the country for decades may not be unconnected with the quality of Public Financial Management, PFM.

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